Brainwagon Radio: Lost and Found, Gadgets, Software and Recipes!

Where your host rambles and meanders through the topics that seem appropriate on a Saturday. Links from the show:

  • I use lots of command-line tools to process and convert video files. Some of the more important ones are mplayer, transcode and ffmpeg. All three are useful and powerful, but have steep learning curves. Still, for mass conversion and ripping of video files, they annoy me much less than other alternatives, and they are all open-source.
  • Mark Tilden is the inventor of BEAM robotics and also the Robosapien, a cute remote controlled robot toy with surprisingly long battery life. You can look for other Robosapien hacks here.
  • Dave Slusher uses blosxom as his blogging software: a good choice. I use WordPress, and have recently begun testing the newest version at a mirror of my text weblog. Verdict: nice, but generates illegal RSS for enclosures (multiple enclosures per item).
  • Get ready for the holidays! Try these recipes from the web:

Example Video From the Aiptek DV4500

My Robosapien: Click for Full Size ImageWell, I promised to make a better review of the Aiptek DV4500 and to post some trial video and image files, and here they are. I took these photos and video in the available light in my living room during the daytime.

  1. The highest resolution photo mode Note that it’s pretty blurry, it is devilishly hard to get sharp exposures in available light. The button to click the shutter is in a poor place to prevent jerky motion, and the overall exposures in this light are very long, making hand held exposures even more difficult.
  2. 352×288 video, snapped of my Robosapien dancing. Not too bad, although a bit blurry and showing lots of compression artifacts. In theory, the manual says this is 30fps, although a couple of utilities that I have report that it is recorded at 15000 frames per second. Eek!
  3. 640×480 video, showing the Robosapien’s fighting skills. Better overall image quality, but clearly shows blurring when the motion is fast. The manual says this is 15fps, but again several utilities I have report the 15000 fps anomaly.

The long and short of it? The Aiptek DV4500 is basically as good as a cheap $30 webcam, but it does record MPEG4 video, snapshots and act as a voice recorder. It has a small video screen, can play back to a television and records to SD memory cards. It’s cheaply constructed, and is blind as a bat in low light (and unlike bats, cannot fall back on sonar imaging). On the plus side, it is portable, uses standard media, is accessible as a hard drive from Linux machines without special drivers, can play back mp3 files (including the 64Kbps ones I use to record my podcasts) and is cheap enough that next year when a really good option comes in at the same price, you won’t feel bad about giving this one to your kids as a hand-me-down.

Addendum: My referer logs indicate that the number one search query to google that gets people to arrive at my site is “robosapien+hacks”. I did a brief weblog about robosapien hacks months ago, merely pointing at other good information, but apparently that has reached the number three position on the page of Google search results. It’s embarrassing really, as all I have really done is drive my robot around to play with the cat. Oh well.

Whew! Found it!

To my great relief (and no doubt, the great pleasure of my wife) I found her missing wedding ring. Apparently it slipped off while she was folding clothes, because I found it between two folded shirts in my drawer.

I think it is definitely time for either resizing or replacement of these rings. Both of us have lost enough weight that our old rings slip off way too easily. But I am ecstatic that I found this ring. It totally turns around a day which was not starting well (my wife’s car has a flat tire). All is well.