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Rob's Site Blog - March 2008

Google Video Uploader Is Down - Time To Try Out Yahoo! - It's Damn Good! - And So Is The Xvid Codec! 24/03/08

I don't use Youtube - my videos run over 10 minutes too often, so I've been using Google Video, which allows unlimited length videos and files as big as you want. You've got to use their video uploader, and that has been working ok. Until Yesterday. My Google Video uploader wouldn't logon, and a quich search of the forums howed that it was offline, and Google were working on it. Drats.

I decided to try out Yahoo! Video - they limit file size to 150mb - so I decided to try out the Xvid Codec instead of the Div X one I use for compressing my videos in Audacity. Well, I'm glad I did, because the Xvid Codec, set at AS L5, quality set at 5, made smaller files than DivX at a similair quality.

The Yahoo! Video files look great embedded on my webpages (see the article below), so I'll be using them more often.

Cool New Gadget - The Qstarz Travel Recorder GPS Picture Tracker - 23/03/08

GPS TrackerGot a cool gadget to review a couple of days ago - The Qstarz Travel Recorder Platinum Edition. Its a small Bluetooth enabled GPS reciever (rechargeable) that also doubles as a GPS Log Tracker.

Having this bit of kit in your camera bag while you're out and about snapping pics means that when you get home you can Geotag them with the supplied software - it's easy and fast, and I'm very impressed. Great for Picasa Online, Flickr, Panoramio, Google Earth, etc.

Anyhoo, if you're into your gadgets, check out my full QStarz BT -Q1000P GPS Geotagger Review.


New Episode Of The S5700 Podcast Is Out - 18/03/08

The lastest episode of my Fujifilm S5700 S700 Digital Camera Instruction Podcast is out:

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Download the free mp3. (Right click, save target / link as)

Learnings this time: Put the voice file through levelator before I add the music - I didn't, and the music sounds funny.

New Tech, Baby and Health Blog by The Laddie - 17/03/08

Just been chatting with The Laddie on skype, and he's got some great Blogs he and his better half are working on: Tech - No Magic Pill, Life - No Magic Pill, Baby Pill, and Weight Pill.

Please head on over and make a few comments - there's some good stuff to be found!

Podcast Fixes For Next Time - 14/03/08

Time for some level headed criticism of my two podcasts - see below - before I do any more recordings, to make them a better experience for the listener.

Both casts are way too long. I think I should aim for 30 mins max if possible - so that'll mean dropping some bits of GTN (or do them seperately), and breaking down the S5700 Podcast into smaller chunks. The interviews are the most interesting for me (and hopefully the listeners), so more of them. I think I need to be a lot snappier with the intros and segways, and not just prattle on about nothing in particular - especially the website, notes and contact details. They should be at the beginning and end only - and the Podcasts need to stand up on their own merit and not just be an extension of the website. The podcasts are not an advert for this site, they're their own entity.

I'm trying to get someone from another website to do the price-check section of GTN, so we'll see if I can sort that out.

Of course if you've got a GPS Sat Nav and are willingly to have some fun with an interview, contact me with the form at the bottom of the page, and join in the podcasts!


Fixing Bluetooth Internet On Your PC - 12/03/08

Right, the other day I was trying out a HP iPaq Windows Pocket PC which could use Bluetooth to access the internet. Knowing that I had a Cable and Wireless Bluetooth dongle hidden away somewhere, I thought great, this is going to be easy. Oh. No.

First up, the Bluetooth settings, or stack, that come with XP doesn't include most of the services that you'll need to run Internet through Bluetooth, or earpieces, or lots of other things that you need to make it workable. So your first stop has to be to vist the download section for Toshibas Bluetooth stack. Now I know you haven't got a Toshiba PC - but trust me, this will work. Download the software and install it.

Now you've got to pair up your devices and turn networking on, see the documentation that comes with the Bluetoth Manager. The other thing you may have to do is bridge your network connections - your lan or wlan to the bluetooth network, so that the Pocket PC can share the internet. I found that at first I lost internet on my PC, but could use it on the Pocket PC. I disabled the Bluetooth network, then enabled it again, and everything worked. So if you want workable Bluetooth with XP, get the Toshiba Bluetooth stack.

What's This? Another Podcast? Am I Mad? 11/03/08

Podcast LogoI think I'm addicted. I must be. Anyway, fresh out of the sciuridae studio comes the Fujifinepix S5700 S700 Podcast. The theory is that this is going to be the equivelent of an Audio Instruction Manual, to be listened to while holding your camera.

Starting off with the basic operation of the camera, then moving onto Automatic Mode, Scene Position Mode , Macro Mode, and finishing off with some composition guidelines, Episode 0, the Pilot, runs a tad long, but now it's in the can I can move on and tackle some of the other functions.

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Download the free mp3. (Right click, save target / link as)

One thing I did manage to work out for this Podcast was how do get itunes (on your pc) and your ipod to display the Podcast logo. Before uploading the source podcast to its server, you need to embed the image into the mp3. Now I didn't know you could do this - but it's easy. Just open up itunes on your pc, click file, import, select your mp3, then when it's in your music library, right-click, get info, artwork, add. I've tried a 150 x 150 image, but 300 x 300 would look better, I'll try that next time. Once you've added the pic you can then upload your podcast and it'll have the picture embedded. Job done!

Podcast 3 - GTN Steps Up A Gear! - 07/03/08

Podcast LogoThats, right, the latest edition of GTN, the GPS, Tech & Net Podcast is out, hosted by yours truly, and there's some good points and bad about my latest effort.

I was really pleased at using some podsafe music to liven the show up a bit, and it was great to have Dean from technical-itch for an interview. Bad points were that it went on too long, and despite using a new USB headset I was dissapointed with the audio quality. The problem was that I was editing the cast together on my pc, listening to it through my pc speakers, and my voice sounded ok. But when played through an ipod, I think it sounds metallic and tinny. It could be because I set the initial sample rate too low - or had the mic too close to my mouth. It could also be that the mic only cost me £9.....

Learning points:

  • Use music again, it livens up the Podcast.
  • Make it shorter. An hour is too long!
  • More interviews, they're the best bit of the show!
  • Sample voice recordings at the same rate as mp3 music (ie higher) to make synching easier (don't ask) and to improve the voice sound.
  • Play around with Audacity / Mic setting to get a "richer" sound when listening through an ipod.

I need your opinions and help to make this Podcast better!

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Download as mp3. (Right click, save link / target as.)

New Garmin Nuvi 2x5 Range - Budget GPS With Extras - Will Be A Winner, But Should Have Had Text To Speech On All Models - 06/03/08

Just announced is the awaited updated to the ultra popular Garmin Nuvi 200 Series of GPS Sat Nav - the new 205, 205w, 255 and 255w. What we're getting now is an improved GPS Lock time, faster drawing of maps, TMC (Traffic) or MSN Direct Compatibility (Traffic & Local Info), new maps, and on the 255 and 255w text to speech for reading out road names when you approach junctions.

The Garmin Nuvi 205 and 205W will come with the maps of the country where you buy it, whereas the 255 or 255w will have the maps of the whole of North America or Europe. It's great that we can buy an optional TMC aerial, but it would have been nice to get Text to Speech on the entry levels too.

Full article / review coming soon.



New TomTom Go 530, 730, 930 - "IQ Routes", "Advanced Lane Guidance" & "HD Traffic" 05/03/08

New TomTomWa hey! Here come the new TomTom's for 2008 - no review models yet, but they continue TomTom's evolution of their Go Range of GPS Sat Nav's. Expect Bluetooth for hands-free, FM Modulator to route instructions through your speakers, voice recognition, text to speech, two exciting new features, and a new accessory.

TomTom have built in IQ Route planning. What this means is that your device knows what the average speeds are for the roads you travel on at different times of the day, and can take this into account when planning routes. So if your route includes motorways, the TomTom will know to avoid, say, the M25 at 8 o'clock in the morning. This feature is built in, not an extra, and I guess will be updated via TomTom home along with Mapshare.

The next feature is Advanced Lane Planning - put simply when you approach a junction, roundabout, etc, a screen pops up showing you which lane to get in. Simple, and a great idea - how many times have you approached a huge motorway roundabout and your Sat Nav says " Take the fifth exit" and you think "bloody hell, which lane should I be in!!".

TomTom have also come up with an improvement in the TMC traffic system, replacing it with their HD Traffic. Replacing the power lead, this gadget contains a gprs modem, sim card and aerial. TomTom apparently gather ten times as much data than TMC and cover many more roads, so when you're navigating, this thing will guide you around traffic in an even more efficient manner. The best thing about this is that it doesn't need to connect to your mobile phone, it can do it all by itself, and tell the TomTom automatically!

Watch out for a full article and review soon!

Skype - Best Thing Since Sliced Bread - 04/03/08

So there I was playing around with my Tesco Internet Phone on Skype, calling the test number to record messages, and generally thinking about how useful this tool will be for Podcasts, but not really "getting" it.

As I was looking at the various options in Skype I saw the panel marked "Live" and discovered the world of Skypecasts - online conference calls - which you can participate in for free. Browsing through the various categories I found Computer Talk. After listening in for a few minutes they included me in the chat, and I got some great answers to technical questions about Skype and Podcasts. Many thanks to Ankur, who pointed me towards this great link to test whether your internet connection is suitable for VOIP (any Internet phone service.) Spurred on I added the Skype buttons you can see on most of my pages - and low and behold I got my first caller!

John had a question about his Navman 530, so I kicked Powergramo into action to see how well it would record the conversation. It did ok, but my voice was noticibly quieter. After a bit of research I discovered the levelator - a fantastic free application that sorts out all the volume issues with recordings. After checking a site for the correct Audacity MP3 export settings I saved the conversation, and you can listen to the result here, not bad if you remember that I'm using a crappy Internet Phone!

So today I learned that recording decent Skype interviews is possible, even on my odd set-up. I've ordered a digital USB Skype Headet to increase the sound quality even more (£15 from Tesco - bargain!) - and I now know that I've been recording my Podcasts at way too high quality, therefore producing files that could be much, much smaller, yet sound the same.

I now need to interview people for the Podcast to get some practice in and gather content for the cast itself, so email me if you want to participate, or click the icon at the bottom of the screen and give me a ring!

Skype - Marvelous!

Skype Arrives At Sciuridae!!! - 02/03/08

Skype LogoI've wanted to get into Internet Telephony for a while, in order to record interviews for my Podcast, let visitors submit audio questions and comments, and be able to phone people for free!

Well, my Dad gave me a Tesco Internet Phone, so I installed and had a play with that, but when recording conversations the quality was very poor, so I've had a go with Skype (which more people use) and the recording quality seems to be much better. I've yet to do any real world tests, but when I phone (and record) the test numbers things seem ok. My main weakness is the sound quality of my hand-set, so a USB digital headset is in order when I get some more free cash.

Anyway, feel free to give me a ring on skype, my username is scalespeeder, and leave a message on the answer phone, or I may even pick up the phone if I'm in!

New Month - New Plan - 01/03/08

Thats right, this month I'm actually going to have an orderly plan for work on the site, so I really can get moving on the structure and content side of things, there's a few issues with the design that I need to sort out, and now is the time to do them.

So, my priorities for March are:

  • Answer email on a daily basis - I tend to let it pile up then have a mammoth session a couple of times a week, that's not great for people waiting for answers...
  • Check that every relevant page has a comment form, back to category link, and renders properly at 800x600 screen resolution - I've got a problem with Internet Explorer at the moment where on smaller screens the top half of the content seems to disapear....
  • Podcast 3 by 15/03/08 and host it on libsyn to avoid the bandwidth issues of self hosting, Hey, I'm up to 15 subscribers!
  • Garmin Nuvi 800 Article
  • Garmin Colorado Article.
  • Spring '08 Sat Nav Buyers Guide.
  • New Category: Skype / Internet Phones. Include review of Tesco phone, using Skype, hardware, recording conversations, getting your Bluetooth mobile phone headset to work, other internet phone comanies.
  • New Category: Podcasting. Podcasting explained for Podcasters. My current set up, how to use a digital camera for audio recording!!!, making a simple jingle, hosting your podcast, creating your rss feed - feedburner - submitting to itunes / other directories. Including interviews / audio messages.
  • Other makes of Sat Nav.

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