Archive for June 17th, 2009

By June 17, 2009 Read More →

iPhone MMS – review

If you update your iPhone 3G to iPhone OS 3.0 or if you have iPhone 3GS then you have new feature: MMS aka "Multimedia Messaging Service". What’s that?

Posted in: Phones
By June 17, 2009 Read More →

iPhone OS 3.0 update released globally!

iphone-os-30

Instead of releasing it at the same local time at various time zones, Apple has released it 9AM Cupertino time – globally.

Here is the list of new features – as provided by Apple in the upgrade information box:

Posted in: Phones
By June 17, 2009 Read More →

Is Blue the next Green?

 

Yesterday we had a power cut.  For around 10 hours we were deprived of our computers, internet, Facebook, Twitter and a host of other daily “essentials”  When I say “WE”, I mean the whole island!  That’s right, approximately 700,000 people without power.  In my technological nakedness, I was trying desperately to find somewhere to charge my laptop and phone.  I had “forgot” to charge my phones and stuff the night before.  This got me thinking. I needed a way to charge my phone without a power socket, and sitting in the midday heat of Malta, I had a brainstorm.  Solar Power!

 

It seems some clever chaps from Samsung had already thought of this before me.  Whilst I was busy looking online in the wee hours of this morning for a Solar charger, I came across the Blue Earth phone.

samsungsolarphonewow

Samsung Blue Earth

The idea is brilliant.  Take a bundle of old water  bottles, re-mould them into a fetching blue design, stick a screen on it and a solar panel, and market the first “eco friendly” green phone.  Most office calculators are using solar power nowadays and bus stops are usually honking great arrays of solar panels in Germany, so it made sense.  Then I had a think about it, and a read of a few of the comments online.  Lets break this down a bit.

This is what Samsung has to say on their website (http://www.samsungmwc.com/product.asp?Seqno=47&Rellink=Y)

Samsung Blue Earth is the first solar powered full-touch screen phone

Solar Panel on the back of the phone

Eco- friendly phone made from recycled plastic extracted from water bottles

Free from harmful substances such as Brominated Flame Retardant, Beryllium and
Phthalate

Eco-UI: Eco-mode / Eco-calendar / Eco-walk

5 star energy efficient charger which uses standby power lower than 0.03W

Small and light package made from recycled paper

All very impressive.  But is it just baloney and a marketing gimmick? 

Sony Ericsson didn’t as much say “what a load of tosh” but reading in between the lines that’s what I understood when I read their  website  (http://www.sonyericsson.com/greenheart/2009/how-about-solar-cells/)

One feature that we get a lot of questions about are solar cells. We have been evaluating and tracked developments in the area of solar cells for years. As long as there is no breakthrough in manufacturing or efficiency it is not beneficial to put a solar cell on a phone from environmental point of view.

Because:

Current solar cells placed on a phone will, in their life time not generate enough energy to compensate for the energy it took to produce them. They are made out of silicon and to produce them takes a lot of energy.

Current solar cells which are the size of a phone can not replace a charger. The the size vs. efficiency of best cells today makes it impossible to generate enough energy.

….

There may be several reasons to put a solar cell on a phone but at current state of technology environmental benefit is not one of them.

Pretty decent argument against it.  Especially the line about not being able to generate enough energy to compensate the energy it took to produce.  So why have Samsung done it? 

 

I love playing devils advocate πŸ™‚

Samsung didn’t say that the solar panel would produce MORE energy that it took to produce said panel in the first place.  It does say though that the mobile could theoretically last a long time without the need for external power.  It DOES say that large-ish solar panel reduces / removes the need for a charger, even indoors.  That means if this phone lasts 10 years without breaking, then it will consume energy from solar power without ever having to use a wall socket, and ultimately not reduce CO2, but not produce any either.

Sony Ericsson are saying its just a marketing gimmick, and they are producing MORE CO2 than the phone is reducing.

If this is an “Eco Friendly” phone, why stick a great big touch screen on it?  Wouldn’t a smaller screen be more suitable? People are used to sacrificing functionality for the sake of the environment.  Look at the Prius.

Toyota have got into hot water about claims..  with over 168,000 units sold in 2008, Toyota admitted that it cost MORE CO2 to produce the car, than a normal gas guzzler, however claimed that over its life time it SAVED 43% of CO2 in a comparable car, due to its fuel efficiency.   They still haven’t told us how much more CO2 it costs to produce though.

 

Now..  until I get one of these in my hands to have a play, I will leave you with a few thoughts..  

how the heck is it going to work when you have it in a pocket?

Unless my hands are suddenly made of glass, how am i going to benefit, even when I am outside on a gloriously sunny day?

Does it get delivered with oven mitts for when I leave it charging in the sun?

What is the operating temperature of the device?

Will it explode when i leave it on my car dashboard?

Why is no-one else marketing a solar powered phone?

If it costs MORE CO2 to produce than a normal phone, however uses significantly less energy and If the solar panel is SO good it can power itself even on over-clouded days, or indoors  ..  Why did they bundle it with a wall charger?

 

Posted by: Piero (MVP)

[ Post Tags: Samsung, Sony Ericsson, tracyandmatt.co.uk, Solar, Blue Earth]

Posted in: Editorial
By June 17, 2009 Read More →

ATP GPS PhotoFinder mini review

The ATP PhotoFinder Mini – photo geotagging made simple.

 
30grams, 16 hours continual usage, external display, simple one button operation, with docking station!  No, it’s not a phone, but a “geotagger” for normal cameras!

When Matt asked me to review this device, I was all over it like a 12 year old boy that had just found his dads stash of “private” magazines.  As some of you know from my previous reviews, I live in Malta. It’s a small country just off Sicily, about the size of a postage stamp and in the winter, has just under half a million people living there .  In summer, the population normally doubles!  It is a country full of heritage and has been attacked by pretty much every race that ever existed.  In short, it’s one of the most ideal places in Europe to take some really cool photos.

What’s in the box?

  • ATP Photofinder Mini (with built-in lanyard clip)
  • Docking station / card reader with LCD display.
  • Multilanguage “quick start” guide
  • 18 page user manual
  • A 1 month free voucher for a Locr Pro account (more on this in the review)
  • Multilanguage Manuals on in PDF format on CD
PF_mini_photo  The Official Press Pack Photo. (cards not included, and LCD screen by the looks of it!)

(Approximate) Specifications  of devices: 

GPS PhotoFinder Mini

Chipset SiRF Star III
Channels 20
Sensitivity (Tracking) -155dBm.
Reacquisition 0.1sec typical
Maximum altitude 18000 m
Maximum velocity 514 m/s
Update rate Continuous operation: 1Hz
Operating Temperature -20 to +60 degrees C (-4 to +140 degrees F)
Storage Temperature -20 to +60 degrees C (-4 to +140 degrees F)
Operating Time More than 16 Hours
Connectivity Card Complies with MMC Micro 128MB
USB Connector Mini USB to external power charger/ Link to PC
Memory card Optional 128MB MMC Micro memory card
Battery Li-polymer rechargeable battery 780mA Max.
External Power Adapter 100-240 VAC [email protected] 1.2A
Dimension 35.0 mm x 24.0 mm x 60.0 mm
Weight 30g

Multi-Function Docking

Display 128×32 Dot Matrix FSTN with backlight
UI Language English (Default )
Japanese ( Optional )
Traditional Chinese ( Optional )
Simplified Chinese ( Optional )
Operating Temperature -20 to +60 degrees C (-4 to +140 degrees F)
Storage Temperature -20 to +60 degrees C (-4 to +140 degrees F)
Connectivity Card Complies with Compact Flash Specification Revision 4.0
Complies with SD 2.0 SDHC
Complies with MMC 4.2
Complies with Memory Stick PRO/Duo
USB Interface to PC USB to Type A male connector cable
Power Jack Mini USB
External Power 100-240 VAC [email protected]
Dimension 83.6 mm x 93.0 mm x 51.0 mm
Weight 135g

 

Now.  Call me a bit suspicious, but when a device lists languages supported as English, then Japanese,then Traditional & simplified Chinese it normally means the device was manufactured in the reverse order.  It also pretty much guarantees that the user manual is going to be worth reading for spelling / grammar mistakes alone.  Boy was I not disappointed.

The first thing that struck me on the device, was even before I had opened the packaging.  Those little “we have changed our mind, or something wasn’t quite right when we designed the box” cover up stickers.   Noticeably, they were covering the operating temperature.   It seems that the website, and the original box claimed the device could operate at -20 degrees Celsius.  ATP amended that to 0 degrees C, and extended the range up by 10 degrees to 70C.  OK, not a deal breaker. You may not be able to take a picture, but at least you will know where you are when the fireball has died down.

I will warn you now, if you do not understand sarcasm, or “British” humour, then watch some Monty Python, and read this tomorrow.  It will all make sense in the morning.

The GPS module itself is actually so simplistic in design it scares the hell out of me.  It has one main power button, 3 LED’s,  a MMC Micro slot, with a 128mb card in it, and a rubber cover covering that and a mini USB hole.  It also has a rather nicely designed and sturdy Lanyard clip, with a well made heavy duty connector weaved, stitched, and covered also in rubber.  It’s Mirror black and silver design is appealing, and it looks just like a Bluetooth GPS mouse that we all used to lug around before HTC / TomTom / Garmin started to build them into their devices.

DSC_0265

DSC_0264

Sitting in its dock!

The cradle on the other hand is a bit plasticy, although it does have a fair bit of weight, and has a neat storage bit underneath for its USB cable.  I say neat, because it is also utterly useless, as you have to lug around a power supply. The cradle takes SD, MMC, MS and CF cards, and does work as a MMC Micro reader as well when the GPS unit is plugged in.  The display on the front of the unit is backlit, and easy enough to read.  understand NO, read yes!

DSC_0275

Storage for the USB cable, but you still need power to make it work!

How it works is simple.   The little GPS device records your position with the date and time every 10 seconds.  Then, when you get back to the docking station, it “reads” the time stamp on the photo’s, and inserts the geodata into each shot.  In theory…

At this stage I want to show you the “getting started guide” because that’s what I looked at on the box.  It’s printed there as well.

 

Tutorial

Simplicity in every way. switch on, take photos, plug card and unit into base, done..

 

Having received a few new devices over the years, and being a bloke, I don’t read manuals much. The box illustration lulled me into a false sense of security, and I wandered out, in the blistering heat, and gave it a road test!

OK.. So that was the plan and in true Murphy’s Law fashion, a couple of things didn’t go quite right!  First of all, I was doing a photo shoot for a client, one that involved me travelling almost all over the island in a single day. The prefect opportunity for testing.  Unfortunately, the customer didn’t agree to me using the device for testing, and I wasn’t allowed to keep the SD card that I had shot all my photos on.  (I was wondering why he handed me a brand new 8gig SD card when I started the shoot and asked me to use that!)

So, back home and suffering form heatstroke, I dumped my laptop and other kit, put on some shorts, grabbed my camera bag and the Photofinder, and headed out for a quick trip VIA water ferry to Valetta.  Knowing that it would take me about 90 minutes return trip using public transport, It would be an ideal time frame to get some good shots.  180 photos later, I was back home.

SO..  plug in device, insert card, press synch, set time zone, await result and upload into Picasa.  Easy as pie..

where2

Great English! πŸ˜‰

That was the error I got almost continually.  no MAPPING FILE, Pease remove it!  This naturally caused me to scratch my head in frustration..  What is a mapping file, where should it be  and what should I remove?  I tried again, I swore, got on my messenger to Matt, re-read the manual, swore some more, scratched my head a bit then went on search of the website (and if anyone mentions PEBCAK, I will hunt you down!) A search through the site archives showed me a “technical manual” and FAQ, not surprisingly missing from the manuals, and then a reference to a wonderful firmware upgrade “in a few weeks” but with no date!.

I only mention this as a warning, and I have to post it.  I rarely pick a product apart so much, however.. 

Does the Photo Finder support CompactFlash or xD flash cards?
The Photo Finder supports all memory cards as long as they’re formatted using a FAT/FAT32 file system. For SD(HC) and Memory Stick cards, there is a built in card slot. For other memory card formats such as CF and xD, a standard USB reader (sold separately) can be directly plugged into the Photo Finder using the USB adapter cable (included). 
??  where?  I have taken pretty detailed photos, so if you can see where a standard USB card reader can be “slotted in” please tell me! More importantly there was no cable to do this!

It takes a long time to acquire a signal from the GPS satellites?
It may take a long period of time to track a location depending on the positioning of the GPS satellites.  For the first time if it was placed at the area well exposed to the satellite signal, the device requires approx. 13 minutes (theoretically 12.5 minutes) to receive or update ALMANAC. Refer to trouble shooting guide when the signal is not received well.
Gotta love that clear concise English!

Is the Photo Finder compatible with Mac OS and Windows?
The Photo Finder will work in conjunction with any operating system which supported your photos without geotagging. 
The Photo Finder actually logs and geotags without the use of a PC so there aren’t any compatibility issues with operating systems.
Tell that to my MONSTER of a PC, that the ATP Photofinder managed to bluescreen! (Specs & details below!)

Does the Photo Finder support RAW formats?
Unfortunately, the Photo Finder currently only works with JPEG type photo files.  ATP is currently researching the addition of RAW type format support.
OK..  point and shoot compatibility at least ! Shame I shot all my 180 odd photos in RAW, as I always do.

How long can the Photo Finder log GPS data for?<
With the built in 128MB storage, the Photo Finder can log up to 550 hours of location data.  This storage is also recycled so that you always have 550 hours of the most recently logged data.

At this point, I would like to draw your attention to the specs again! Do I notice a small discrepancy here?

Operating Time:  More than 16 Hours

How much more?  534 Hours? BTW  That’s 23 days, in a device that weighs 30 grams!  OK.. So you can basically have a holiday, and shoot a lot of photos, then synch everything when you get home, as long as you brought the charging cable.

Is there anyway to export the GPS logs from the Photo Finder?
ATP is working on a new firmware version which adds the ability to export route data using KML files.  KML files can be opened with Google Earth to view your logged routes.  This will allow for not only geographical viewing of your photos, but also the paths on which you took them.  This version should be released within a few weeks.
This worked on the firmware that I was using.  I GOT the log file, on my SD card, but not the geotag!

The ATP Photo Finder will not power on:
Open the battery cover and re-insert the battery.
The battery may not be inserted properly.
Check the rechargeable battery to see whether it is charged or not.
Now I pushed, pulled, twisted, tweaked,  breathed on and generally said every magic spell I know to open this fabled Battery cover.  It was no-where to be seen, or documented!

The ATP Photo Finder cannot connect with my PC and card reader:
You may be running on a low power batteries. Please replace the battery with new or charged ones.   ??? WTF?
Please check and make sure the USB cable is correctly connected in both ends.
Please ensure to use the alkaline battery (1.5V ) instead, as it is better than rechargeable battery. (1.2V) ???????
You may have used a card reader that the ATP GPS Photo Finder does not support.

battery

How is that supposed to fit in there?

 

Frustrated, I did what any tech guru does in this precarious position.  I searched for firmware, and found some!

 

At this point I would like to brag a little! 

my-specs
That is a screen shot of my PC specs.  Yes, you are reading that right, I have 12gig of RAM.  It is the fastest processor on the market, and I have the fastest graphics card on the market to match! It rates a 6.5 on Windows 7, and only rates 5.5 on Vista due to an older 500gig hardrive!  The little ATP, weighing in at 30grams managed not only to cause an “out of memory error”, but ultimately caused a bluescreen!  Very annoyed that Matt put me through this torment of seeing a BSOD for the first time on my PC in over 6 years, I decided not to risk anything else on my machine, and use my laptop.  Guess what..  same thing!

So..  I started problem solving.  Out comes the GPS device from the cradle, and I decided to connect directly.  Works fine, shows me the MMC card as a card reader.  Perfect.  Lets have a look at the card contents, open explorer. Blue screen ensues.  I decided to buy myself a MMC micro reader,  and format the card.  Quick check of the manual.—–

Ok. cool. There is a format menu on the cradle.  Format again, after being forced to do a hardware test.  This time it works.  The GPS device, now void of all information again greeted me with blinky lights!  YAY!

You may be wondering why I went to all that trouble?  You need to load the firmware on the MMC Micro card to actually flash the device.

Device flashed, and apparently working, I looked down and realised it was 1am!  I had got home at 7:30pm.  Taking photos can wait until tomorrow!..

 

Day 2:

Camera charged, GPS module charged:  out into the wild I go.  Get home, plug in the card into the docking station and realise that I forgot to change the camera format to Jpeg!  DOH! Spend 2 hours trying to convert to jpeg whilst keeping the original time stamps, fail miserably.  go to bed.

Day 3:

Couldn’t be bothered to end my day on a low note: so left the device at home!

Day 4:

SUCCESS!

Yes I finally managed to crack the damn problem!  I set the camera to Raw + Jpeg, went out and tested it.

Important is that you do actually test!  Don’t go running out and doing a 3 hour shoot.  I had to set the sync to GMT +2, I think because of British Summer Time rules even though i tried with +1 first.   If i had been out for more than an hour, it would have screwed everything up!

However, I was NOT impressed with the accuracy that i received from the GPS module.  My Touch Pro2 has GPS built in, and does provide me with a more accurate fix of my position.   http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/albumMap?uname=jugglesXP&aid=5344277372419381921#map  has all the details of the very boring photos that I took!

Have a peek at that Picasaweb map, and you will see what I mean.   I was deliberately sticking to an area about 500 meters from my house.  I wanted to see how accurate it was before I take it out on an Island test tomorrow.  It only recorded 2 of the 6 locations as individual.

 

http://www.panoramio.com  displayed this a lot better! 

actualPointer is where Google says I am, Red dot is where I was!

When i left it on, but sitting on my front room table for a few hours, this is what it recorded..

table

However, it is much better when travelling, Download my little tour file from www.freelanceitmalta.com/TandM.kmz

 

So. My verdict..

Great little toy when it works.  I would have LOVED a USB version, that plugged into your PC / Mac and had a software that installed.  I think for the first time in my life, this is a product I actually think would be great with a program bundled with it.  The installer should do a couple of things..

Allow me to download the GPS data directly.
Set the time zone
See the pictures in a nice interface!
Tell me what the heck that error message means!

For geotagging photos with “ease” the ATP is not great.  For logging where you were on a trip.  Its the bees knees!"  Oooh..  and just in case someone from ATP reads this, please outsource your user manuals to a company that specialises in writing them in English!  Cant wait for the RAW support though!  I did mention one thing right at the top, the Locr Pro “one month free” voucher..   Seriously guys..  It has a “value” of less than 2 dollars.  You could have saved yourself the hassle.

 

Posted by: Piero (MVP)

Posted in: Reviews
By June 17, 2009 Read More →

Dev Team Demos UltraSn0w – iPhone 3G Unlock

image As announced yesterday, Dev Team member MuscleNerd did a demo of UltraSn0w, the new software unlock for the iPhone 3G (skip to 2.20 min on the video after the break). Unlike its predecessor YellowSn0w, UltraSn0w will unlock your iPhone 3G no matter what firmware, bootloader or baseband you have, as long as you have the new 3.0 firmware installed.

The actual program that UltraSn0w injects into the baseband to accomplish the unlock is the exact same one the Dev Team developed for YellowSn0w. What changed is that the Dev Team found a new β€œhole” to inject the unlocking payload.

Posted in: Phones