Corner Geeks 9: Live Streaming setup for Ran8adidas

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Show Notes

What we wanted

  • Live streaming of the event
  • Video
    • multiple cameras if possible
    • perhaps one overview shot
    • one on-the-go camera following events like the Twitter hunt. Follow contestants around “Amazing Race” style
  • Sound
    • clean sound from the mixer for opening ceremony / speeches
    • also want to capture atmosphere/sound around the camera
  • Internet
    • need for streaming
    • simplest of them all. 3G dongle
  • Master control at the laptop controllilng the stream / switching audio and video accordingly

Mobile video

  • DSLR / camcorder approach:
    • Possible but need wireless transmitters making it cumbersome
    • DSLR sensor limited time
  • Keep-it-Simple-Stupid approach:
    • Use smartphones with Wifi and cameras
    • Small, simple, only need wireless access point if needed
    • Possible to attach external microphone to device for interviews
    • Advantages
      • Can move around freely
      • Requires no additional hardware for video capture hardware on computer.
      • Fairly cheap and easy to setup if you already have the devices (more people have smartphones now)
    • Disadvantages
      • Latency
      • Lower quality?
      • Potentially unreliable connection vs wires? Wireless inteference. Network going down?
      • No zoom!
    • Mobile Video apps

      • IP Webcam
        • Android
        • Free
        • Starts a webserver on camera device. Accessible from any computer on the network. View and listen in a browser
      • PocketCam (Desktop software)

        • iOS / Android
        • US$4.99 / BND$6
        • Windows or OS X software to be installed on the host
        • Creates video and audio device driver on host. Once connected access like a webcamera and USB mircophone
        • Audio lag!
      • WebCamera
        • iOS / Blackbery / WinMo / Symbian
        • US$2.99 / US$19.95 / US$19.95 / US$9.95
        • Works similar to PocketCam: Windows or OS X software to be installed on the host
        • Used iOS version that can take video and photo from camera and it will send it to host computer
      • There are other apps for Android and iOS but many do not provide audio which is what we wanted
    • Multiple Camera feasibility study
      • IP Camera: separate VLC instance for each video and each audio for each camera. Gets complicated very fast
      • Pocket Camera / WebCamera: only one PocketCamera / Webcamera host software allowed to run at one time on one machine
      • Not possible to use multiple cameras using only one app. Mixer and match is possible
      • Needed proper communication between in-the-field camera user and master control

Sound

  • Input from mixer via line-in on laptop (not don’t have get a USB sound card)
  • LadioCast for audio mixing and piping of audio. Can even monitor sound without sending it to live stream

Internet

  • Needed wireless coverage
  • Used iPod Touch as a WiFi signal monitor. Activated voice control, tap the wireless signal to hear the strength level (probably there is an app for this but did not explore)
  • To forgoe a 3G router: OS X Internet sharing (Connetify.me for Windows)

Other things we used

  • Phone holder to tripod mount
  • Tripod: can place camera in certain places. Can extend tripod to get different angles
  • Charging cables! Must remember to charge mobile devices. iPod Touch 4G lasted about 2 hours of streaming

Final Setup

  • iOS Webcamera easiest to work with
  • CamTwist to add overlays
  • Ladiocast to pipe audio. Connected to mixer when needed. Add microphone from the mobile cameras when interviewing / asking questions
  • Tripod to place camera so no need to be there
  • uStream to send out stream and record it

Other Considerations

  • Phone upgrades:
  • Have a sign that says, “we’re streaming live”. While recording I was thinking of the implications of this for privacy
  • Have a dedicated chat room to interact with the viewers. At least had a screen of some hashtag that we could sometimes show on twitter.
  • Get better upstream for better video and audio
  • Have a dedicated screen / projector / laptop on our booth showing what’s streaming.

Asus EeePad Transformer

I came to know of the EeePad Transformer’s existence in Brunei via Goh De No’s article in the Brunei Times last week. The Transformer is an Android tablet but also a ‘laptop/notebook’ with the keyboard dock that adds functionality to make this an interesting device.

Specifications

  • Android 3.1 (according to Goh De No in the Brunei Times article)
  • 10.1" IPS screen at resolution of 1280×800
  • NVIDIA® Tegra™ 2
  • 1GB RAM
  • microSD card slot
  • miniHDMI
  • Keyboard Dock provides
    • keyboard + trackpad
    • 2 x USB 2.0
    • 1 x full size card Reader (MMC/SD/SDHC)
    • added battery to charge the slate

More specification details at: ASUS’s Transformer page

Price: B$899 for the 16GB version with the keyboard dock at C.F. King in Kiulap (no non-bundled price available)

Android 3.2 is available to this device via the Transformer’s download page and thus adds better functionality and compatibility with applications developed for phones with the new ‘zoom’ mode. This should scale applications up just like the iPad does for iPhone apps. While phone apps should install and run on Honeycomb tablets, the layout may look weird or even broken and this feature should resolve it.

While I’m saddened that CF King did not offer a price without the keyboard dock, the Transformer is a device that can have some productivity uses with the keyboard dock which allows the device to be used for up to 16 hours (the other 8 hours in the day can be used for sleep!). Damien from Carrypad is actually trying to use the Transformer as an enterprise productivity device and I’m curious to see the outcome of his experiment. Coincidentally he has just posted an article about week 1 of the Transformer usage.

Another thing interesting about the Transformer is that it will have a dongle to convert the HDMI to VGA output: a great tool if you wish to use it for presentations on the move, as VGA is still much more compatible and widely available on projectors. I believe this is the only other tablet besides the iPad that has VGA output and is something I would recommend for teachers or anybody else who gives presentations and wants to have a minimal yet functional setup with them.

Read full reviews of the Transformer at LaptopMag, AnandTech, Carrypad (Part 2 here) and Engadget. If you’re interested in the device I suggest heading down to CF King and have a go at the device. One of their staff, Poh, is a nice and friendly guy there, I’m sure he could help you out.

For other innovating / whacky tablets from ASUS keep a look out for the 10" Eee Pad Slider, 7" Eee Pad MeMO 3D or the 10" pad and 4.3 phone that make up the Padfone. One thing is for sure, none of ASUS Android tablets are typical. As the fore father of the netbook with the Eee PC I salute you!

Gadgets can be Cheaper in Brunei

We all hear of how people go overseas to buy gadgets as they are cheaper overseas. While that could most typically be true, it is important to point out there things can be cheaper in Brunei. Thanks to online retailers we can even check the prices in the comfort of our own room. Below are a 2 devices I found cheaper in Brunei than in Singapore.

While these may be outliers it is worth a shot to check prices to get the best deal. Below are the few places I check with respect to phone prices and if you guys have any others do leave them in the comments.

P.S. Getting devices overseas, while at times cheaper, can also be an inconvenience if something goes wrong and you want it replaced / repaired. Manufacturers warranties should be fine and could be brought into a local branch if they exist in Brunei. If not you may have to go back to the shop you bought it from or send it to a manufacturer overseas adding to inconvenience.

The HTC Flyer

We managed to get our hands on the HTC Flyer at Yappe Computer, Serusop, and it seems like a good 7″ Android Tablet: an alternative to the older Galaxy Tab. It’s selling for B$859 (cash price) / B$886 (credit card price) for the 32GB model.


(YouTube link to video)

Specifications

  • 7″ 1024×600 multi-touch capacitive screen
  • Stylus for use with the active digitizer screen
  • Android 2.3 with Sense 2.1
  • 1.5GHz CPU
  • 32GB storage (~7GB available for apps, ~20GB available as storage)
  • 1GB RAM
  • microSD card slot
  • 5MP rear camera with auto focus (no flash)
  • 1.3MP front facing camera
  • Standard micro-USB (no HDMI out)
  • Wifi: 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • Audio supported formats:
    • Playback: .aac, .amr, .ogg, .m4a, .mid, .mp3, .wav, .wma (Windows Media Audio 9)
    • Recording: .amr, .aac
  • Video supported formats:
    • Playback: .3gp, .3g2, .mp4, .wmv (Windows Media Video 9), .avi (MP4 ASP and MP3), .xvid (MP4 ASP and MP3)
    • Recording: .3gp
  • Battery: 4000 mAh
  • Supports Adobe Flash

(Specifications from HTC Flyer Website, GSM Arena)

Notes on the Stylus

  • works in apps that support it otherwise touching the screen takes a screenshot that you can annotate
  • cannot be used to ‘touch’ all controls / buttons only digitizer palette brought up by touching the icon with the digitizer (not your finger)
  • requires a single AAAA (yes 4 As) battery which I have not seen in shops
  • has 2 buttons: 1 highlights text, other erases

Bundled HTC Apps

  • Notes application syncs to Evernote and allows infinite vertical scrolling. Allows text input, photo embedding, handwriting annotation as well as voice dictation
  • Reader application is a reading app linked with Kobo for in app purchasing
  • Watch application allows renting and buying of movies (but doesn’t seem available in Brunei, thus can only watch previews/trailers)

Other Notes
While it is a 7″ Gingerbread (2.3) tablet instead of Honeycomb (3.x, which is the tablet optimized version of Android) it seems to be the better choice at the moment as apps will run on it with the only issue may be the way it looks. Currently is only one 7″ Honeycomb tablet: the Acer Iconia Tab A100 and it was released yesterday. It is the first device to have Android 3.2 which is supposed to provide better support for 7″ tablets compared to the regular bigger 10″ Honeycomb tablets. However there seem to be some force close issues and app incompatibilities reported by This Is My Next and ZDnet (i.e. more work for the developer to fix problems).

On the entertainment side it supports 720p video playback, supports quite a few file formats and codecs but there is no HDMI output unless you get the dock to use with the extended microUSB connector on the flyer. The HTC Watch app is a nice feature but not being available here makes it of no use. For office use, there is support for Microsoft Office documents that allows editing with normal text entry and even the stylus (however, not all file formats are editable). Battery life seems a bit mixed with the Engadget review being impressed by it while TechRadar and CNET UK rated it has having bad battery life. BGR and Android Central give it decent battery life with typical use of 2 days per charge.

Summary
While I wished they didn’t remove the calling ability of the device, the usability of the pen to annotate and take notes is pretty appealing. A good alternative to the Galaxy Tab if you don’t plan to use it for calling. Smaller and more portable than an iPad it is made more for mobility. The main reason to get this device is the active digitizer and stylus combo or if you just wish for a tablet faster than the Galaxy Tab whose age is showing. Nice to see HTC innovate with the Flyer and hope to see more with the upcoming Puccini, their shot at the 10″ tablet category.

Creating a Brunei Apple App Store Account Without a Credit Card

As mentioned in our episode of Corner Geeks 8: The Brunei Apple App Store, the video below documents how to create a Brunei account without a credit card.

Do note:

  1. not all apps seem available (e.g. WhatsApp) but most seem there.
  2. no music / movies / TV shows available
  3. AV mentioned that they currently selling Brunei iTune gift cards

The gist of the process:

  1. Load the App Store in iTunes
  2. Search for a free app (e.g. Angry Birds)
  3. Download the free app
  4. Sign up from the dialog box
  5. Select "None" as a "Payment Method" section during the registration

I still think getting a US iTunes Account is still the best option as it is completely unrestricted. You can create a US account without a credit card, using the same method above but select US instead of Brunei. You will need to buy gift cards online though, and I have bought iTune gift cards from both PC Game Supply and Jerry Cards with good results so thus far. See which works best for you and join the ecosystem that has yet to be rivaled (especially outside the US).

Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro – a Great Budget Android Phone?

Among my usual habits, I will check availability and prices of phones on Incomm and I was surprised to see the Xperia Mini Pro going for B$378.

This phone seems to be a phone I would buy, if I didn’t buy my LG Optimus One, as a great budget Android phone which seems to have the least compromises. Check out the video that I managed to get at Incomm as I played with the device.

Notable Specifications

  • Android 2.3 Gingerbread: the current major version of Android of phones
  • Connectivity: 3G (HSDPA 7.2Mbps, HSUPA 5.76Mbps), WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1
  • 3" HVGA (320×480) screen: a bit small in size but good resolution that is widely supported by all apps
  • Slide out landscape QWERTY keyboard
  • 1GHz Snapdragon CPU with Adreno 205 GPU
  • 512MB RAM
  • 400MB for apps (according to GSM Arena): a bit small but acceptable for a budget phone and sadly (for Arc users) it is the same amount as the Arc based on Sony’s specs which says up to 320MB (Arc vs Mini Pro)
  • 5MP rear camera with autofocus, flash and 720p video recording (auto focus while recording video, recorded in mp4 encoded with h264, aac)
  • VGA front facing camera for video calls
  • Supports Adobe Flash
  • Plays 720p videos (mp4 encoded with h264,aac)
  • Can open PDFs and Microsoft Office documents (doc,docs,xls,xlsx,ppt,pptx)
  • microSD support up to 32GB
  • 1200mAh battery

Full specifications at Sony Ericsson or GSM Arena

I really like that this budget phone seems to have practically no compromises for a budget phone: there doesn’t seem to be any major show stoppers. Most budget phones will have no front facing cameras and won’t have cameras that can record 720p. A budget phone won’t have a keyboard nor a 1GHz CPU. The CPU couple with a GPU and sufficient RAM should ensure this device is smooth and usable for the regular user.

The main issue is the small 3" size of the screen (iPhone: 3.5", Optimus One & Wildfire S: 3.2", Galaxy Mini: 3.14"): a small size coupled with a high resolution may make some text small to read and will make using the onscreen keyboard a bit difficult. Thankfully there is a physical keyboard on the Xperia Mini that should help alleviate this (as long as the keyboard is good and usable). Also the smaller 1200mAh battery (vs 1500mAh of the Optimus One) may give it less battery life, but that also depends on the amount of work being done: with a better CPU, the same amount of work may require less energy from the Xperia Mini. I guess we’ll just have to wait for more in-depth reviews with battery life scores and this is the main unknown factor at the moment. Another compromise would possible be the UMTS frequency band support with it only being dual (900/2100) or triband (800/1900/2100) depending on where it is purchased but I don’t think this will affect many. Most of these issues/compromises are acceptable for a budget device.

With that said, I think I could tentatively highly recommend this phone to users but only after they take a look at it and try to use the keyboard and check to see if the text is too small on the device; and also after some battery life tests are published – all the features are of no use if the battery life is bad. From my use with it, the screen and text size seem fine but my fat thumbs did have a bit of an issue with typing. It could play 720p video, Flash video and even edit office documents. Overall a snappy device and I’m just very impressed at what Sony Ericsson managed to pack on this device hitting all the right check boxes giving the user minimal compromises. Great job Sony Ericsson, now improve your higher end devices!

Sample Photos (note front camera was covered with a thin plastic film):

Sample Video from rear camera:

B-Mobile Launches ‘Multi-SIM’ Service

It has finally happened, we have a Multi-SIM service here in Brunei thanks to B-Mobile (Read the Borneo Bulletin article at Brudirect). Multi-SIM basically allows you to clone your SIM card to put in another device. This is great for people with 3G enabled devices: e.g. iPad 3G, Galaxy Tab, etc and want to be able to make calls / use data on those devices without having to sign up for another phone number or resorting to the tedious task of switching SIM cards.

There is a monthly subscription fee of $8 per SIM card and there are 3 configurations of the service:

  1. Multi IMSI i.e. primary SIM rings only;
  2. Simultaneously i.e. both primary and secondary SIMS ring at the same time; and,
  3. Orderly i.e. primary rings first. If rejected, busy, switched off or not answered, then the secondary will ring.

Multi-SIM is applicable for the following plans:

Sadly multi-SIM is not applicable for plans with unlimited data (e.g. Postpaid ZOOM $60 Unlimited & Post-paid Smart plan $65). There is no mention of OMNI users but since it’s an unlimited plan, I presume that it will not be supported either. I guess B-Mobile is worried that people will subscribe to the multi-SIM service and use the SIMs in an unlimited data fashion and thus would congest the network.

As an a subscriber to OMNI, I hope B-Mobile could consider another plan for users with unlimited data plans: single SIM get you unlimited data, multi-SIM gets a cap (of perhaps 200GB free beyond which they will pay per amount used as the non-unlimited data plans pay). This would at least give users with unlimited data plans an option to subscribe to this multi-SIM service and not be left out with the convenience that it brings.

So now with B-Mobile supporting this, I wonder if DST will follow

Corner Geeks 8: The Brunei Apple App Store

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A ‘live’ / non-Skype Corner Geeks recording this week as I sat down with @mfirdaus as we discussed the Brunei Apple App Store while also passing him the InstallESD.dmg file for Lion. We hope that this is the start of more services being opened to Brunei and perhaps a legal way for people to get music, movies and TV shows in the future.

Show Notes

  • Apple brings the iOS and Mac App Store to 33 new territories, including Brunei!
  • We can register with a Brunei Credit Card
  • AV Electronics, the premium reseller of Apple products, says they aren’t currently selling Brunei iTunes gift cards
  • Registration without a credit card is possible with the same hack/work around to register a US account without a credit card (try download a free app in the App Store and create an account from there)
  • Brunei just has an App Store, not a full iTunes store with Music / Movies / TV Shows
  • Not all apps available in the iOS App Store: e.g. WhatsApp (could be developer’s setting when publishing app or some other unknown restrictions)
  • Prices shown in store are in US dollars
  • App ratings are reset meaning Brunei apps could make it to the recommended list
  • Sources for US gift cards: PC Game Supply / Jerry Cards (I have bought once from each of these sellers before and can verify that they work)

Corner Geeks 7: Live Streaming – Part 2

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We get back into podcast producing and we resume our topic on “Live Streaming” (part 1 here) giving details of how to set up a more advanced live streaming system. Some related links on the topics we covered are listed below. Feel free to add your own links in the comments with regards to tools you use for live streaming

Live Streaming Services

  • uStream (Free): has co-hosting, recording features and mobile client (iOS, Android, Windows Phone)
  • Justin.tv (Free): has desktop and mobile clients(iOS, Android)
  • Livestream (Free)
  • Stickam (Free): co-hosting and mobile clients (iOS, Android, J2ME)
  • Vokle (Free): new and modern with good co-hosting feature and recording. Latency was an issue when we used it. No mobile client
  • Google Plus (Free): not really live streaming but can have up to 10 people video chat but latency was good
  • Vidyo (commercial)
  • Bitgravity (commercial)
  • Wowza: set up your own streaming server (i.e. make your own uStream.tv)

Live Streaming Utilities

Video Effects

  • uStream Producer (Free: OS X, Windows): easy transitions and allows output of webcam/pictures/movies/screen/music and also has PIP support. No text overlays
  • CamTwist (Free: OS X): powerful with many video effects. can do screen casting, slideshows, movie playback, changing of video sources, text and image overlays and so much more
  • ManyCam (Free: OS X, Windows): easier than CamTwist to use, has screen casting, displaying of images (slideshow), movies, text overlays
  • Webcam Studio for Linux (Free: Linux): seems like a CamTwist for Linux which advance functionality

Other Hardware

  • Eye-Fi: an SD card with wireless capabilities for wireless transfer from camera to computer
  • Zoom H1: used as a line-in recorder

Video Switching

  • BoinxTV (Commercial, Software): software is to be installed on a Mac to provide TV studio like functionality. Check out Daniel’s video of how it used it for the Making of Gear 65 #28
  • Tricaster (Commercial, Software & Hardware)
  • Sony Anycast (Commercial, Software & Hardware)

Audio Effects

  • Line-in (Free, OS X): simple tool that sends audio from one sound device to another
  • LadioCast (Free, OS X): an Icecast client but has the ability to do audio mixer and piping
  • Soundflower (Free, OS X): creates 2 sound devices which can be used as streams to pipe audio from one app to another
  • JACK (Free, Linux, OS X): Jack OS X – similar to Soundflower
  • VACard (Free, Windows)

The Zoom H1 Handy Recorder

Zoom H1 Handy Recorder
Earlier this year I bought the Zoom H1 Handy Recorder off eBay (US$105 including shipping) to be used as a line-in recording for my church but also for possible podcasting use. It has been used both as a stereo microphone as well as a line-in recorder for Corner Geeks. Check out the video review below or click this YouTube link

Overall, it’s a great budget recorder that can be powered over USB but sadly cannot be used as a USB microphone. I would highly recommend it for anybody who wishes to start recording interviews. If you wish for something a bit more compact the Tascam DR-08 may be better option.

Features (from samsontech)

  • Stereo X/Y mic configuration captures perfect stereo images
  • Same frequency and SPL handling as popular Zoom H2
  • Records Broadcast WAV (BWF) at 96kHz/48kHz/44.1kHz at 16-bit or 24-bit
  • Records MP3 from 48 to 320kbps for maximum recording time
  • Hi-Speed USB 2.0 port (mini USB)
  • Built-in reference speaker
  • Includes 2GB microSD memory card and one AA battery
  • One AA size battery allows 10 hours operation
  • Accommodates up to 32GB microSDHC memory cards
  • Track marker function
  • Low cut filter
  • Built-in tripod mount (1/4″, 20 threads)
  • 1/8-inch (3.5mm) external mic input
  • 1/8-inch (3.5mm) stereo line output
  • Auto record level
  • Optional accessory package (APH-1) includes windscreen, AC adapter (USB type), USB cable, adjustable tripod stand, padded shell case and mic clip adapter

Other Notes

  • Can be used with either external microphone or line-in recording levels
  • Stereo microphones are angled such that in an interview, one mic can be pointed to the interviewer and other other the interviewee giving better sound separation
  • Can dynamically change recording levels while recording without having to stop the recording
  • If external microphone / line-in cable is removed, the recording automatically switches to the in-built microphone (the opposite is true as well: automatically switches to external microphone / line-in once connected)
  • Can be powered off USB after turning on the device: great if you’re low on battery. I’ve had some issues where connecting the USB port to power the device causes humming in the recording, but that could be due to my cables, but it is something to note
  • Cannot be used as a USB audio device/microphone when attached to a computer
  • Plastic makes it seem cheap
  • Tripod mount is made of plastic so wear and tear may not be good to it
  • No windscreen provided so be careful of any wind blowing or breathing into the microphones that can mess up the recording
  • The rounded end on top of the recorder gives it a bulge and makes it a bit more difficult to store away without a proper hard case
  • May be considered a bit bulky compared to the Tascam DR-08 which is half the thickness