Insights For Success

Strategy, Innovation, Leadership and Security

Video

Watch Netflix safely in the office

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

A new Chrome extension (called Netflix Hangouts) will make your Netflix stream look like a 4 person video conference by adding 3 additional video boxes onscreen. The Netflix show is housed in the bottom right hand box. You engage the extension by clicking on it and you stop it by clicking on it again (or closing the Netflix tab).

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This will not trick network based traffic inspection devices. It just makes the screen look more business like. If your company employs network base traffic analysis, you may want to VPN out first.

Best 360 degree camera for consumers

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
Nokia Ozo. Photo courtesy of Nokia.

Nokia Ozo. Photo courtesy of Nokia.

360 degree videos are the new THING because they capture more of the experience you are trying to share. Facebook, Youtube & Twitter all support this new more immersive medium. So the question is "What's the best 360 degree consumer video camera available?" Good question considering your local BestBuy has over a dozen in store and on display.

Having tested about a dozen of them, the best one is still the Ricoh Theta S. 

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Ricoh

Theta S

Why the Theta S? First it is easy to use. You press that big button and it starts to record. It has built in WIFI that allows you to review the captured content or control the camera with your smartphone. Last but not least, it captures good quality video.

Video is good but not great

When buying one of these devices, it is important to understand that you will get good video but it won't be an ultra sharp crystal clear 4K video (like one coming from a mid priced DSLR). The video quality will be good and acceptable but the manufacturers chose not to go super high quality because the stitching would require too much horsepower. 

Some technical specs

So what kind of sensor does this little device have? It has 2 12 megapixel sensors and  ultrawide 240 degree lenses. The camera then processes these two inputs and automatically created one 14 megapixel video (at 1080p) that automatically hides the camera. 

Pair this 360 degree video with some kind of VR headset (even a cheap Google Cardboard) and you get wonderfully imersive video that feels like you are in the moment. You can move around and see everything. This means you (as the photographer) have to consider this immersive experience when taking the video. Be cognizant of how you are holding the camera. 

Let's talk quality of video

So the Ricoh Theta S produces some very good video with good color reproduction (even is low light situations). Using the smartphone app, you can tune basic settings like exposure compensation, shutter speed, ISO and go fully manual (which I don't recommend).

Video clips can be up to 25 minutes long. Let's be honest, you videos shouldn't be longer than this anyway.

Let's talk device in hand

The Ricoh Theta S is a slim device which means it is easy to hold even for people with smallish hands. It is thin and long and a bit thick (which makes holding the device easy and comfortable).

It has a nice easy to hold onto plastic surface that has good grip. It has a standard tripod mount on the bottom which means you can easily mount this to any tripod (including a flexible Joby Griptight).

The device is easy to use and allows you to quickly switch from 360 degree videos to 360 degree pictures and back. All without having to fiddle with finicky menus or having to use the smartphone app. You can turn WIFI on or OFF (WIFI sucks battery so turn it off when not needed).

Let's talk battery life

Richoh doesn't provide good information about battery life. Assuming you are using the device for videos and have WIFI tuned off, you can expect about 1 hour of use time on a single charge. The device does not have a removable battery so you'll have to charge it with a portable battery when in the field. 

It's a 360 degree video

The output from the device is either a JPG or MP4 file with metadata identifying it as a 360 degree video. You can upload this to Youtube, Facebook, Twitter or Flickr and it will identify the file appropriately and then perform all of the required processing in the background to make it immersive and navigable.

Each 1 minute of video consumes about 100MB of storage and if you transfer it via WIFI to your phone will take 3-5 minutes. During this time you have to leave the app open and therefore won't be able to do anything on your device (or you can transfer it via USB if you have a laptop).

The free Theta+ or Theta+ video apps let you edit videos and even create non 360 degree cropped output files. They are fairly basic but allow you to add text, music or trim the video length.

When possible, use a tripod (even a mini one) to hold the camera otherwise you are likely to see fingers in the shot as you press the recording button. Or use the smartphone app to start/stop recording.

It can live stream

The Ricoh Theta S can also live stream when connected to a desktop with the special Theta software loaded on it (Mac and Windows). To enable live streaming you "Press the shooting mode button and power button of the camera together". 

You can live stream your 360 degree masterpiece to Youtube or Facebook. You may want to add the free OBS Studio app to the streaming mix.

Important considerations

  • First is the price. At roughly $350US it isn't a cheap product and it can't be your main or only recording device. 
  • It doesn't shoot in 4K. Considering most people will be viewing this content on VR visors, smartphones or in web browsers, this should be a major problem but it is important to remember.
  • The built in 8GB of storage (no SD Card support) is annoying. It's major competitors (Nikon Keymission 360, Samsung Gear 360 and Insta360 all accept nano SD cards).
  • Without a removable SD card, you also can't just "pop out" the card and transfer data at super fast speeds using a USB card reader.
  • If you edit the 360 pictures, some editors will strip the 360 degree marker from the metadata and the uploaded sites won't know that it requires special handling. You can add this back but its a pain.

Conclusion

If you want to buy an affordable, easy to use 360 degree video camera, the Ricoh Theta S is the one to buy today. It offers the right combination of quality, price and features. With everything said and done, it is still early days and the experience still isn't perfect.

I wouldn't recommend my parents go out and buy this. Not yet. Not right now. If you have a desire for 360 degree video then go out and get one. You won't be disappointed as long as you remember it's not a mass market product yet.

For John and Jane Doe, the technology still needs to mature and improve a bit.

 

 

 

What's the best SD card?

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

SD Cards are everywhere. Whether you are using them in your video gear or camera, choosing the right one can make all the difference in the world.I needed to find the best SD Card I could buy and am sharing it with you. 

In tech, there is always something better if you are willing to pay more. So what I was looking for was the best value proposition. 

What to look for in a SDCard ?

When evaluating any external memory, you will typically use the same evaluation criteria :

  • Speed
  • Reliability
  • Warranty
  • Price

Many android phones will test the SDCard  speed while preparing it for use and will warn you if it is believed to be too slow. A slow SDCard can make the entire phone slow and sluggish. Also you should be saving your photos and videos directly to the memory card so a slow card mean slow click to click speeds.

The smartphone has become the primary camera for many users and since you are storing your important memories (photos and videos), reliability is important. Nothing frustrates more than losing your memories because of a technical issue. SDCards have become incredibly reliable but choosing a strong brand is important to protecting these memories.

Electronics die. Sometimes an SDCard will live for 10 years other times it will die within 90 days of first use. You just can't tell so it is important to chose a product that is backed by the manufacturer.

Price... Price...Price... When choosing the best SDCard, price was an important factor. You could always pay more to get better (faster, bigger, etc) but most people want a card that is good enough.

The tests

I tested 12 of the best known brands (Including Toshiba, Transcend, Samsung, PNY, Lexar, and some lesser known Amazon brands). 

The SanDisk Extreme Pro came up on top every time. It tested as the fastest,  when reading and writing from a desktop, which means your camera will spend less time writing and your post photo workflow will be much faster. 

Most modern cameras will take pictures faster than SD Cards can record them (typical dSLRs save pictures at 200MB/s and some point and shoots in the low 100MB/s.) Obviously the faster the card the faster your camera will be able to offload pictures from its internal memory to the card thus preventing the dreaded slow shutter to shutter issue.

As for videos, most device record at between 30-100 MB/s, so you should be ok with this card even at 4K resolution. 

What I especially liked about it is its weather proofing. I snapped pictures then dunked the card in water (outside of the camera of course) for 1 minute. Lat the card dry up and it worked like a charm. I often use my Olympus Though waterproof camera so if the unthinkable occurred, I would likely be able to save my images (at least).

SanDisk also bundles its cards with a limited Lifetime warranty. 

My second pic would be the Samsung PRo Plus (if the SanDisk is not available).

How many SD Cards should I buy?

The other question I get asked is regarding what size of card to buy. I typically recommend that you carry multiple cards and rotate between them. Nothing would ruin your day more than losing all your pictures because of a malfunction. Buy the largest size you can afford as long as you can buy at least one-2 extra cards of the same capacity.

Most of my cards are 32-64GB in size and on a multi day trip, I will typically have 1 card per day. If the unthinkable happens, I only lose 1 day of memories. 

Microsoft PIX is an AI powered free IOS Camera App

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

You can download Microsoft PIX from the Apple app store now for free.  The claim to fame (according to Microsoft) is that it uses artificial intelligence to take the best possible shot every time without forcing the user to fiddle with any settings.

This computer voodoo is possible because the app takes 10 pictures every time you press the shutter button. Some right before you pressed the button and some right after. It uses data from every shot to build the best possible image (Apple's default app also does this very same thing but it seems Microsoft is pushing the technology a little bit more). Even though it selects the best possible shot and discards the rest, it uses data from app the pictures (even the ones it will delete) to reduce noise, brighten faces and ensure it has captured colours as accurately as possible.

Another cool trick up its sleeve is motion analysis. If it believes there is motion in the series that could enhance the image then it will animate that worthwhile section and create a "live" photo. It could do this for a sparkler on a cake or hair blowing in the wind or a beautiful waterfall behind the subject. 

All of the intelligence is hidden from the user. There are no settings to change or configurations to optimize, everything is taken care of for you. It is the kind of app even your mother can use.

It is smart enough to detect faces and optimize the settings for it/them. It will detect open eyes. I started playing with this app a couple of hours ago and so far like it enough to put it on the first page of my iPhone next to the default camera app.

You can checkout this Microsoft Research page to learn more about the cool tech behind the app.

Hacker eavesdropes on Quebec Liberal Party Meetings

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
Photo from Journal de Montréal

Photo from Journal de Montréal

A local Quebec french language newspaper (Journal De Montréal) has an interesting report about a hacker exploiting a critical flaw in the PLQ (Quebec Liberal Party) video conferencing system allowing him to eavesdrop on private strategy discussions. 

Lucky for the PLQ, the hacker is a white-hat (good guy) and informed employees of the flaw. He also proved his exploit by sharing videos taken from the private discussions.

A black-hat could have exploited this information for personal gain or to make a political statement. The flaw he exploited was contained in a software being used and the PLQ had left a factory default password enabled.

The PLQ has since patched the bug and changed the password, but this is a cautionary tale for all home and office users of videoconferencing technologies (remember most laptops have cameras these days).

  • Tape over your camera when not in use
  • Update your software regularly 
  • Uninstall software you don't use
  • Be vigilant