Monday, November 23, 2009

Latest toy. The ROVIO.

I saw this thing (the ROVIO) in a Skymall catalogue some time ago...I thought it would be cool...I have webcams, and have always wanted to build some kind of mobile webcam...of course accessible by intertubes.

An unfortunate side effect of progress is compatibility. In the olden days we were content with our pre-wifi 1mb wireless devices...running open and naked in the wild...then we got Wifi at its 10mb speeds...still running open and naked. Then someone created WEP...then someone else created WPA...nobody used WPA...because you needed to buy more hardware to support it (or sometimes updated drivers.)

Then WEP was easily everyone went running for WPA...and threw out anything that couldn't run WPA...(soon WPA2 will be the only thing...)

What is the point?

The ROVIO was built to support WEP. So this $300 device quickly became obsolete. Late last fall, early this year they released a WPA firmware, so we can continue to use these devices.

I got mine on ebay for less than $100. But getting it up on my Wifi WPA network took about 7 hours.

For those of you with this device...or who want one, go to this website for a lot of helpful info.

And here is my post on how I finally got WPA on it. A hint is you need password of 25 letters/numbers or less.

Oh if you still don't understand what a ROVIO is, then here is a video...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Solar Powered Web Cam

I have a shed that I mounted a wireless weather station on a couple of years ago. I have always wanted to mount a webcam out there to 'see' the weather. There is a 1000' TV tower that I use to judge how bad the weather is...the less antenna I see, the worse the weather.

The wireless weather station uses 2 AA batteries that last roughly half a year...easy.

However a webcam is going to use MUCH more power than that...I didn't want to run electric out there...with the weather station on a metal pole, I didn't want to add a path for lightening to enter the house...because lets face it, if I am going to go through the effort to run power, I will also run CAT5.

So I thought solar might be nice, I already have a battery in the shed (lawn tractor) I could use the solar panel to charge the battery, and the battery will allow the camera to run day or night, rain or shine.

But how to get the solar panel power to the battery and webcam...well I bought a 15w solar panel that came with a 12v battery charger. I mounted the panel to the shed (60 deg angle for winter sun) and measured 24ish volts. Hooked the panel to the charger and battery and got around 13 volts...and the battery was charging...all is well.

Then I hooked the webcam worked, great picture! It worked for a few days...then stopped. I check everything and find the battery is completely discharged...and charger is showing charged...I unplug the webcam and the charger now starts charging the battery.

So point #1 be careful on what you get for a charger. I am now buying a different charger, that has a tap to put your 12v loads on and will even keep you from discharging the battery too much when the solar isn't there. (SunSaver 6 amp solar SS-6L)

Enough of that...what about the webcam?

Needs to be wireless, 12v, good picture, small...and relatively cheap.

Asante Voyager I Wireless 1.3 Megapixel CMOS Day and Night IP Security Camera

I don't know how long it will last...but it takes great pictures/video.

I will cut to the chase, I did a little cutting on the camera case, mounted it in a box, cut a piece of Lexan for the window and sealed it in place. Ran electric too it and sealed that hole. I don't have an external antenna, the one that came with it is fine. The pictures should explain the rest.

Here is the result, the first picture is straight from the camera, the second one is after my weather software puts a caption on it...yes it is compressed too much, I need to play with the settings.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Windows 7 first thoughts

I replaced Vista on my laptop (the M1330) with Windows 7 a week ago.

I used an upgrade version of Win7 and installed on a new blank HD. I used this procedure from the My Digital Life blog.
Workaround 3: Clean Install and Activate Windows 7 with MediaBootInstall Registry Hack

I won't reproduce it all here...but the summary is you change one registry entry and then activate.
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Setup\OOBE change MediaBootInstall from 1 to 0.

So what do I think so far? Well remember I did replace the original HD with a new one (Seagate Momentus 7200.4 ST9500420AS 500GB 7200 RPM 2.5" SATA 3.0Gb/s). So some improvements will be because of that...this isn't a scientific analysis.

Having said that, I ran all the tests on the original HD and never showed any thing unusual or any slower than average speeds.

So, the Vista with the old HD took about 3 to 3.5 minutes to boot to something useful...yes horribly slow...every step along the boot took a lot of time.

Win7 with the new drive boots to...

first sound (welcome screen) 43 sec.
login prompt (I swipe with the fingerprint scanner) 53 sec.
desktop is on internet (wifi) (skype plays login sound) 75 sec.

I don't care who you are...those are resonably fast times. It is fully useable by the time skype logs in.

Other things...quickly comes out of standby. No noticably difference in battery life.

Improvements...under Vista, when browsing my network, it took a couple of minutes to get enough info for me to actually browse...Vista took all that time just to populate the doesn't take HD speed to browse the network.

Win7 pulls up the network devices and populates it with device icons as quickly as XP pulls up computers on the network.

When you reactivated the display after Vista turned it off, it would always come on full bright, no matter where it was set before...Win7 brings it back to the original brightness.

I have the same eyecandy settings that I had on Vista, and on this machine they are smooth and snappy...on VIsta they took a lot of effort it seemed.

Interesting to note, if you have the HD space, Win7 will create a 100meg system partition (like swap in linux?) I think that helps the speed.

So if you hate your Vista install then jump ship and get Win7.

I think I will get another copy and replace my aging XP install on my gaming/editing machine...or at least dual boot?