# Sunday, 19 December 2010

So I finally went out and bought myself an actual Garmin GPS unit.

DSC00034

It's a Gamin Nuvi 1250, pretty much the smallest, most basic GPS unit that I found at the local Garmin outlet.

Now.. the obvious question from most people would end up being "Doesn't your phone have GPS functionality?"

DSC00033

So, does me buying a GPS unit is due to the fact that I can't use Bing maps for directions easily with my Windows Phone 7? Unfortunately for the Windows Phone 7 haters, that's not the case though. I pretty much made I my mind that if I replaced my HTC Diamond 2 with it's Garmin Maps software I would buy a physical device if I got a replacement phone that didn't have Garmin software support.

Why? Most important reason is that I don't trust Maxis enough to be the source of my map data, which is the case when I use either Google Maps or Bing Maps for navigation. Not to mention the fact that when I'm roaming in another country, network data usage may simply NOT be an option.

So I really much prefer an offline map solution. (Yes I know that the iPhone has a few too, but I'm getting to that)

The other reason for getting a dedicated GPS device is a matter of power. While most people look to converge all the things they do into one device, I have another view which is "The device I use must be able to serve its primary function with sufficient power reserves for any secondary functions" In this scenario, my phone's primary function is to serve as a communications device that links me to the world through the net, and of course as a phone. It's secondary function is to provide entertainment (games, movies, music) and well.. GPS guidance. Both those things require quite a big gulp of power.

I thought using my phone (The Diamond 2 and others before it) as a GPS wouldn't be a problem as long as I plugged it into the car charger, but after my first extended use of GPS when I was travelling through Melaka all day and on the highway I realized a problem. The combined heat of a working CPU, GPS chipset, screen backlight, bright HOT sunlight and the recharging of a battery is able to trip the phone battery's internal charge protection circuit. Thus the battery STOPS CHARGING until it can cool down so it doesn't EXPLODE!

Realizing that it is possible that under heavy usage my phone can't be recharged I decided that the best thing to do is to just get a dedicated GPS device so that my phone itself has power to spare.


Sunday, 19 December 2010 01:26:57 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Thursday, 25 November 2010

Windows Phone 7 comes with a Map program which obviously ties into Microsoft's Bing Maps service. How effective is it when we try to use it here in Malaysia? Check out the video.

If you have don't have the 10 minutes to check out the video here's a quick summary

  • Navigation is enabled only for certain countries like US or UK. So you'll need to set the phone's region to those countries to even SEE the routing button in the Maps program.
  • While Bing can identify road names and perform routing, we can't SEARCH for road names in Bing Maps yet.
  • No voice navigation means it might not work too well as a driving aid.

So… don't go tossing out your external GPS unit just yet.


Thursday, 25 November 2010 09:51:59 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Saturday, 20 November 2010

For record keeping purporses, and also as a reference post if god forbid the sensor comes crashing down one day. This is how I mount my Kinect sensor.

DSC00021

The sensor is mounted on the top of your typical flat screen TV. I was going to make a stand using instructions provided here, when I encountered 2 problems.

The first was that the top grills behind my TV ran the full length of the TV, so there’s no center spine area to put the tape on. Therefore I resorted to the use of a smaller tube.

DSC00024

I’m guessing some Asian parents should be familiar with this nutmeg oil can, it’s diameter was just the right size to angle the platform. Speaking of which, the 2nd problem was the platform.

DSC00023

Surprisingly I couldn’t find a simple no entry sign, or anything like that in the ACE Hardware I went to. I saw lots of STICKERS, but no signs. I ended up with a cutting mat that has a melting point of 70 degrees Celsius.

DSC00026

I used industrial strength velcro for all removable points, then I used some duct tape as an anchor to help ease the force of the platform pushing against the can hopefully making for a more permanent bond.

Redundancy wise, in a case of failure. I hope that my used of multiple strips of velcro on the front of the TV combined with the duct tape, will ensure that there’s no SPONTANEOUS LOSS of adhesiveness, should the heat of the TV melt the velcro strip connected to the can I should be able to see it tilt gradually and perform any repairs instead of just watching it crash to the ground.

I hope!

For spatial reference

WP_000010

The space from the TV, to where the white couch is, happens to be JUST THE RIGHT SIZE for 2 players. 1 player is where WZ is sitting.


Gaming | Gear
Saturday, 20 November 2010 23:01:35 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Friday, 19 November 2010

Today news broke that you can access your Windows Phone 7’s storage folders from this webpage, most sites referred to this as Portable USB drive access. They also wondered about the usefulness of this USB drive method since even if you COULD copy say… a DOC file into a folder, you couldn’t access it in the Office app on the phone. For that you could use my webserver method.

But I recognized what the folders were (Me and the other 10 people who used a Powered By Windows Media PMP device :P) The folders you see when you browse to the device…

mediafolders

These are the MEDIA FOLDERS, From my experience Windows Media powered PMP would have folders like this and used this structure to hold it’s contents.

So it’s a simple way to move media around, big deal you say. But here’s the thing that interested me the most.

I CAN NOW DIRECTLY COPY VIDEO FILES INTO THE DEVICE.

Remember that you can already copy video files to the device using the Zune application, but unless your file satisfied certain parameters the Zune application will reencode the file to the WMV format before copying it to the device.

But… when you attempt to copy a file into the video folder directly through Explorer you get this dialog instead.

directcopy

So you can choose to drop the file onto the phone WITHOUT ANY REENCODING!

Now that I could copy video files into the phone directly what’s left was to find out what kind of codecs were supported. Microsoft provides a nice little list here. But I’d be lying if I’d say I knew what’s the difference between the various different profiles of MPEG4. ;) Anyway what’s missing on the list is.. AVI file container support.

Quick primer for those of you who are unfamiliar with how video files work. A video file consists of a container which has multiple streams and each stream might contain data using various codecs. A typical AVI file you download off the Internet would be using the AVI container format, and has 2 streams, a video stream using the MPEG4 codec (or more commonly known as XVID), and an audio stream using the MP3 codec.

The problem here is that because Windows Phone 7 doesn’t support reading of AVI containers, it means that we are unable to just drop AVI files onto the phone. Based on my experience and testing when making my Simple Webserver, I know that MP4 Containers ARE supported and usable.

So now we have a problem, we have a container (AVI) which can’t be read by Windows Phone 7 but it contains streams MPEG4 and MP3 which CAN be used by Windows Phone 7. So the question was, how do we get the streams into a MP4 container WITHOUT having to go through any reencoding?

Enter the swiss army knife of video tools : FFMPEG

With FFMPEG it’s easy to copy streams from one container to another, with a simple command line of

ffmpeg –I inputfile.avi –vcodec copy –acodec copy output.mp4

The streams from inputfile.avi will be copied over to output.mp4 WITHOUT wasting time reencoding. Once processed you can then drop the MP4 file onto your phone and hopefully it’ll play properly (Remember, there are various other settings for MPEG4, and the phone doesn’t support all of them)

What’s that you say? You don’t know how to use the command line? How about this then?

m2recontainmp4

It’s a VERY simple frontend to FFMPEG, you click on Pick Source to pick your source file. A quick analysis is done, and the program will tell you the state of the file. The destination file is entered automatically if possible, if not click Pick Destination for the output filename. (Be sure to enter a filename with the MP4 extension) Then click GO to start processing. Once it’s done copy the file over to your phone and try it out.

You can grab the M2RecontainInMP4 Program here. (I packaged the FFMPEG executable with it… I’m pretty sure I violated something in the licensing by doing so)

Things to note :-

  • It’s not a PERFECT process, sometimes some artifacts will appear
  • Renaming and deleting video files in Explorer seems to have WEIRD results, I think it’d be best if you don’t rename files on the device through Explorer. And to delete files, tap and hold on them in the Music & Videos app on your phone.
  • I haven’t gotten a H.264 video codec file to play properly, so.. good luck with the files you have.
  • This is a VERY VERY EASY hole for Microsoft to patch up. Let’s hope they don’t!

Friday, 19 November 2010 00:13:42 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Because my wife was complaining that I got way too many Nerf guns, I promised her that I’ll only get guns that have a different design compared to any one I’ve already owned.

Well… out comes the Nerf Barricade which uses a sort of motorised dart launcher mechanism instead of a traditional pump. So… new mechanism means…

DSC00015

Brand new gun! Yippee!!! One of the main difference is that this gun CANNOT be used without batteries, because unlike the Vulcan there is no manual mechanism to shoot darts with.

All it has is an on/off switch, which uses some very interesting markings instead of the standard on/off marking.

DSC00016

Off is basically indicated by a no shot icon, whereas on is indicated by a burst mode icon.

The 3 AA batteries that power the gun are contained behind this battery door.

DSC00017

The dart chamber is capable of holding 10 rounds.

DSC00018

The firing mechanism is interesting, when a chamber is rotated into firing position the dart is pushed forward into the barrel and…

DSC00020

See the 2 pink gears at the bottom of the barrel, when you turn the gun on they start spinning, and when a dart is pushed into the barrel the gears basically grip the dart and accelerates it out the barrel.

There are 2 interesting things about the gun, the first is that it shoots surprisingly fast, almost as fast as you can pull the trigger. The second is that because the gears are constantly spinning as long as its on, it’s constantly draining power from the batteries… So battery life is suspect for this gun.

It’s a very interesting design, it’s compact, high capacity and high rate of fire is enticing, but the fact remains that it is a potential battery hog.

And here's a video.


Wednesday, 17 November 2010 19:01:22 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  |