Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Memory Card for GoPro

Samsung EVO Plus microSDXC
Which memory cards are good for GoPro HERO action cameras?

Many professional photographers and videographers swear by SanDisk Extreme and Lexar Professional memory cards because they have proven to be tops in reliability and performance.

But as of September 2018, arguably the best card for GoPro HERO (and for most other devices) is the Samsung EVO Plus (2017 Model). With Class 10 U3 speed (up to 100MB/s Read and 60MB/s Write), the 64GB capacity (with adapter) is widely available for only $21.

For reliability and performance, format cards with the official SD Association Memory Card Formatter.

Counterfeit cards are a huge problem. To protect against counterfeits, always (a) buy from a major reputable reseller like B&H, and (b) test before use with H2testw 1.4. Example of testing a 64GB Samsung EVO Plus in a Lenovo ThinkPad T460p:
Test finished without errors.
Writing speed: 57.7 MByte/s
Reading speed: 70.2 MByte/s
H2testw v1.4
(After testing with H2testw, be sure to either delete the test files from the card or format the card.)

Thursday, March 1, 2018

FZ1000 No Limit Video

Lumix DMC-FZ1000
The Lumix DMC-FZ1000 by Panasonic is a terrific digital camera for stills, thanks in part to an amazing Leica branded long zoom lens, but what really sets it apart is excellent 4K video, except for one unfortunate limitation: the length of a video clip is limited to 29:59 (30 minute limit, thanks to an EU tariff, even on a USA camera).

One way around the limitation is to feed video while monitoring (not recording) over HDMI to an external recorder like Atomos.

Another way, not documented by Panasonic, is to hack the FZ1000 into service mode with the following procedure:
  1. Start with the FZ1000 turned off, with Drive Mode dial set to Single, and Recording Mode dial set to Program AE (P).
  2. While holding down Right Cursor, DISP, and AF/AE LOCK (yes, all 3), switch the camera on.
  3. Press green Play button to enter Playback Mode.
  4. While holding down Up Cursor and AF/AE LOCK (2 things), switch the camera off.
  5. Switch the camera back on.
  1. PAL cameras must be switched to NTSC frame rates to remove the recording limit. (This is not needed on NTSC cameras.) Format memory cards in the camera after making this switch.
  2. Recording limit is removed only for 4K video, not HD or other video formats.
  3. Yellow exclamation mark that appears when turning off the camera in service mode can be ignored safely.
  4. With this hack, FZ1000 is able to continuously record over 80 minutes of 4K video on a 64 GB SDXC card, ending with 2 of 3 bars battery (when starting with a fully charged battery).
  5. This hack reportedly also works for a number of other Lumix cameras with the 29:59 limit.
Reset to normal mode:
  1. Start with the FZ1000 turned on, with Drive Mode dial set to Single, and Recording Mode dial set to Program AE (P).
  2. While holding down Right Cursor and MENU/SET (2 things right next to each other), switch the camera off.
  3. When the menu appears, press Right Cursor until the camera actually turns off.
  4. Camera has now been fully reset to normal mode with all settings restored to defaults, so must be initialized again (language, date, time, etc).
Helpful videos:

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Transcode with VLC

VLC as a Recorder
In addition to being a great way to play video and audio content, VLC is also a great way to record Internet streams (e.g., radio) -- see Record Internet Radio.

MP3 streams are the simplest to record because they can just be dumped to a "raw" file, but that often won't work with other types of streams. The solution is to transcode (convert) streams into MP3 format with VLC before writing them to a "raw" file. It's also a good way to reduce the bitrate of MP3 streams for speech.

Example of VLC output without transcoding:

Corresponding example with transcoding for speech
(bitrate 48 Kbps, stereo, speech sample rate):

Corresponding example with transcoding for music
(bitrate 128 Kbps, stereo, music sample rate):

For the complete recording procedure, see Record Internet Radio.

Monday, January 23, 2017

TASCAM DR-40 Input Level

One of the best affordable digital audio recorders is the TASCAM DR-40, capable of producing audio recordings that are far superior to recordings made by most digital cameras and camcorders. Dubbing DR-40 audio into recorded video in post production with software like Adobe Premiere is a great way to produce quality video output.

One of the keys to making good audio recordings is to set the input level properly. Set it too high and clipping can result in distorted audio. Set it too low and the result can be noisy when amplified to normal listening levels.

A feature that sets the DR-40 apart from the competition is Dual Recording Mode, which makes a secondary recording at a lower level (at an adjustable difference of -6db to -12db) as a backup in case the primary recording is accidentally clipped into distortion.

Here's a simple, effective way to set DR-40 input level properly when using Dual Mode:
  1. Set initial input level to 80.
  2. Adjust input level during testing or rehearsal for peak value of -6db (as shown on the display), with an average level of about -12db (triangular hash mark on the display), which will usually provide sufficient headroom (safety margin).
  3. Set Dual Mode at -9db. In the case where input level has accidentally been set too high for the primary recording, that will usually provide proper headroom for the backup recording.
  4. Before dubbing with video in post production, check peak recorded level of the primary recording, and if it did run out of headroom (higher than about -3db), use the backup recording instead.
General recommendations for quality recordings:
  • Record in (lossless) WAV format.
  • Use a sampling rate of at least 48 kHz, preferably 96 kHz for music.
  • Use 24 bit depth.
These settings may be more than you need for finished video, but you may well need extra margin in post production, so you should capture as much quality as possible. Because these settings can result in large files, make sure you have a sufficiently large memory card of high quality (e.g., SanDisk, Lexar Professional).

Sunday, January 1, 2017

VLC for Fire TV

Amazon Fire TV stick 2016 with VLC

Stream wireless audio/video to TV from computer!
Plays virtually any valid file format!
Excellent quality video, audio, sync, even subtitles!

Several good network video streaming solutions are available (see Wireless HDTV Video) with the primary purpose of delivering content from the Internet, but streaming of local content (cell phone video, camera video, and other files) tends to be more difficult, often involving server software (e.g., Plex) on a computer, a problem for less technical users.

What tends to work better for most people is a TV-centric (client-centric) solution rather than a server-centric solution, where the TV is used to select and play content files. That's now possible with the advent of VLC Media Player for Amazon Fire TV and stick. VLC is an excellent free and open source app that can handle virtually any valid file format.

Installing VLC can be a bit tricky since VLC for Fire is not yet listed in the Amazon Appstore on the new 2016 Amazon Fire TV stick, which means you have to sideload VLC for Android (on which Fire TV is based):
  1. Download the latest ARMv7 of VLC for Android here.
    (Look for small APK package link below Play and Fire buttons.)
  2. Follow the instructions in How to Sideload Fire TV Apps.
    (If you have an Android phone, that method is probably the easiest.)
The second part of the process is to enable file sharing on a Windows and/or Mac computer, and share folders in which you will place files for streaming by VLC on your Fire TV.
To play files from your Fire TV:
  1. Start the VLC app.
  2. Select Browsing.
  3. Select Local Network.
  4. Select source network device (computer, network storage).
  5. Navigate to the audio or video file you want to play.
If you need help, try VLC for Android and Chrome OS Forum.

Tip: Fire TV is a great way to "cut the cord" (cable) with the excellent Sony PlayStation Vue service.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Android Earphones King

Xiaomi Mi In-Ear Headphones Pro
There's a new king!

Earphones with Mic for Android recommended:
But, good as they are, the Xiaomi Mi In-Ear Headphones Pro is better than Klipsch but even less expensive than Sony! In fact it is better than any earphones this blog has tried under $100. Sound quality is stunning!
  • Hybrid dual drivers: dynamic for bass, balanced armature for treble
  • Metal sound chamber machined by CNC
  • MEMS microphone reduces noise interference on calls
  • 3-button remote for calls, music, and volume
  • Kevlar fiber cable for durability
  • TFE end section minimizes microphonics (clothing noise)
  • Comfortable fit and good isolation with multiple eartip sizes
  • Tuned by Grammy award winning tuner Luca Bignardi


To avoid counterfeits (a serious problem), buy from:

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Windows Monitor Calibration Issue

Calibrating your monitor is important because most monitors are not calibrated by the manufacturer, and do not display accurate color. See Calibrate Your Monitor.

But even after you've calibrated your monitor, it may not display accurate color, especially if you are running Microsoft Windows and have uninstalled the calibration software.

If you research this issue you're likely to be told that Windows doesn't load the calibration CLUT (Color Look-Up Table) properly, and advised to keep calibration software installed. But even then your monitor may not stay calibrated, shifting between calibrated and uncalibrated for no apparent reason. The truth is that monitor calibration can be made to work properly under Windows if you take the necessary steps:
  1. Stop Losing Display Calibration with Windows 7 details how to configure Windows to use a calibration color profile. But that may work for you at first, only to shift back again. Something may seem to be fighting with Windows. If so, check the article again, and see the note regarding Intel display drivers, which will lead you to:
  2. Intel’s Video Drivers Kill Display Calibration, which explains how Intel interferes with display calibration, and how to solve the problem by disabling the Intel Persistence module. If you use Sysinternals Autoruns to disable Persistence, your monitor should then stay calibrated even without calibration software installed!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Disable Windows 10 Upgrade

Why not upgrade to Windows 10?
  1. Privacy: Windows 10 collects data on you, sends it to Microsoft, and there's no way to completely shut that off.
  2. Bugs: Quality control has taken a back seat to rapid releases, so bugs are more common than earlier versions.
  3. Compatibility: Windows XP and earlier Compatibility Modes have been removed, and not all software and drivers work properly in Windows 10.
  4. Control: Options to control updating have been removed from consumer versions.
  5. OneDrive: Feature regression.
  6. Media: Media Center and DVD Player have been removed.
  7. Cost: Microsoft is being coy about the cost of Windows after the free Windows 10 upgrade "promotion". Subscriptions might be required.
Bottom line: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." But with Microsoft aggressively pushing Windows 10 upgrade out through Windows Update (over and over), it can be hard to avoid an inadvertent upgrade, and the ongoing nags are annoying.

KB3080351 How to manage Windows 10 notification and upgrade options provides instructions for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 to disable Windows 10 upgrade through Windows Update. Group Policy is not available in Home versions of Windows, but the Registry method should work. Either method should work in Pro versions.

Registry method (Home and Pro)

  1. Create a restore point in System Restore in case you make a mistake.
  2. Copy the following lines into a file named something like DisableWin10Upgrade.reg
    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00


  3. Double-click that file to Merge these changes into the Registry.

Group Policy method (Pro only, not available in Home)

  1. Download and install KB3065987.
  2. Search for Edit Group Policy and run it.
  3. Under Local Computer Policy open Computer Configuration → Administrative Templates → Windows Components → Windows Update.
  4. Edit Turn off the upgrade to the latest version of Windows through Windows Update, change to Enabled, and click OK. 
Screenshots from Group Policy method in Windows 7:

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Electric Shaver Sweet Spot

Panasonic ES8103S
Choice is good, but too much choice can be too much of a good thing, and with the plethora of rechargeable electric shavers on the market, with prices from $15 to $500 (yes, $500!), it's hard to select a shaver that's not only a great shaver but also a great value. Pay too little and you risk a shaver that is underpowered, cuts poorly, charges slowly, doesn't hold a charge, is hard to clean, etc. But if you pay too much you can waste money on features you don't need or even get features that don't actually facilitate a good shave.

Features that matter:
  • Fast shave
  • Close shave
  • Minimal pulling or irritation
  • Cuts longer hair not just stubble
  • Popup trimmer
  • Fast charging
  • Long battery life
  • Easy cleaning
  • Wet shaving
Foil vs Rotary. Each type has pros and cons, fans and foes, and the truth is that both can work well enough that you should go with the type you prefer. My own preference is for a good foil shaver, because it gives me a faster, closer shave with less irritation. But see note at bottom.

How many blades? Foil shavers can have anywhere from 1 to 5 blades (currently at least). More blades are touted as being better, but are they really? 2 blades cut much faster than 1 blade without adding much bulk, and 3 blade shavers can have the advantage different types of cutters, slit for longer hairs in addition to standard foils with holes. But past that number (more than 3 blades) there's little increase in shaving speed to compensate for the added bulk, weight, and cost, and not just the cost of the shaver itself.

Replacement Blades and Foils. To maintain shaving efficiency, blades and foils should be replaced regularly, at least annually, more often if needed. The cost of replacements is often overlooked when choosing a shaver, and the cost of a single set of replacements can be almost as much as a new shaver. Over the lifetime of a shaver you'll probably be spending more on replacements than you did on the shaver, so do pay close attention to replacement cost.

Battery technology:
  • Poor: Nickel-cadmium (memory effect degrades capacity)
  • Good: Nickel-metal hydride (no memory effect)
  • Best: Lithium-ion (high capacity, fast charging, light)
Foil brands:
Sweet Spot: When all is said and done, the sweet spot of electric shavers (as of this writing) is the Arc3 (3 blade) Panasonic ES8103S:
  • Great shaver
  • Great price (less than $80)
  • Wet or dry shave
  • Easy cleaning
  • Affordable replacements
  • Fast charging
  • Long battery life
  • Light and compact
  • Comfortable to hold
  • Excellent pop-up trimmer
Norelco 6100
Best alternatives:
  • Panasonic ES8109S: Essentially the ES8103S with a cleaning stand.
  • Braun 340s or the newer Braun 3040s. Closest Braun equivalent to the Panasonic ES8103S, but nickel-metal hydride battery is not as good, and shave isn't quite as good.
  • Philips Norelco Shaver 6100: If you prefer a rotary shaver, this is the one to get.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Windows 10 Upgrade Nightmare

Windows 10 upgrades have been going so smoothly for me that I got complacent, forgetting about the shaky underpinnings of Windows, and so I got bitten big time. Lessons learned:
  1. Windows 10 compatibility checker is imperfect.
  2. Windows 10 won't necessarily work well with Windows 7/8 drivers.
  3. Windows upgrade rollback has serious limitations.
I had foolishly sent someone down the upgrade trail on her own, which resulted in a panic message to me when it rejected her password after the upgrade. Spent a large amount of time resetting the password on her Microsoft account, but that didn't help. Finally had to go on site, where I quickly discovered the problem, NumLock turned on with a compact keyboard. The Windows 10 upgrade didn't migrate the keyboard Registry fix I had applied to earlier versions of Windows. So applied new fix.

I then went through the hassle of reversing the hijacking of program associations by the upgrade, and upgraded all applications to current versions (which eventually proved to be a big mistake, as I explain below). Not a great experience I thought, but probably still worth it.

3 days later I got another panic message. The problem was that folder view wasn't right for her pictures, and she was unable to change it. Based on experience with her I thought this was probably cockpit error, and so wasted much time and grief telling her what to do before finally turning to (excellent) TeamViewer to do it myself remotely (which I should have done in the beginning). And indeed, folder view options were disabled. She had an administrative account, so that wasn't the problem, Explorer registry setting wasn't wrong, and I couldn't see any Policy issues. So I decided to try System Restore, rolling back to right after the upgrade, and happily that solved the problem. I still don't know what caused the problem, possibly cockpit error, possibly malware, and worried about a possible recurrence.

The next day I made another on site visit to finish up. Most things seemed fine, but there were some issues. Audacity couldn't see any audio devices. Maybe reinstalling it would have solved the problem, but I never got around to trying that. More worrying was the WD Passport drive for File History not appearing as a device. I managed to get it working, but then encountered this issue:

This is an old Windows issue that's never been resolved. It seems to be a result of not having proper drivers for USB: host controller, card reader, etc. Which wasn't good news since support for that Gateway SX2802 desktop computer seems to have ended the day Gateway shipped it. So I spent considerable time trying various drivers for card readers from major chip vendors, but no joy. Registry data suggested the card reader controller was by Alcor, but that didn't prove a fruitful path either.

Finally I remembered I had installed a USB 3.0 PCIe card in the computer for the WD Passport. It had a strange chip, Etron EJ168, rather than the usual Renesas or TI. And when I disconnected and reconnected the WD Passport, one of the two WPD driver errors disappeared and reappeared in sync. But alas, installing Etron EJ168 drivers didn't help either, even when I laboriously tried updating drivers and deleting devices, not helped by the fact that the USB keyboard and mouse would stop working when I blundered on their entries.

In frustration and desperation I finally thought to roll back (revert) to Windows 8.1, assuming that would get the system back to where it was before the Windows 10 upgrade mess, but that proved to be a very bad assumption. The rollback seemed to go well enough, but as soon as I started checking operation I found that some of the applications were screwed up. I noticed these were all applications I had updated after the Windows 10 upgrade, and the light dawned. While the Windows 8.1 and 10 installations are separate, the applications (in Program Files, etc.) are not, so the old Windows 8.1 installation was now out of sync with the updated applications. Ugh.

Not a serious problem, I thought. I'll uninstall and reinstall those applications. Except I couldn't. Because uninstall for some of the applications (Adobe Reader, iTunes, etc.) depends on installers stored outside the Windows directory, which got changed by my updating, and Windows uninstall fails when those install files can't be located. I was able to use the Adobe clean tool to get rid of Reader, but no such tools exist for other applications like iTunes. After wasting a huge amount of time trying to manually uninstall them, I finally turned to the Windows Installer CleanUp Utility, which succeeded in cleaning up the mess so I could reinstall those applications. (The preferred method is Microsoft Fix It.)

Last but not least, Windows 8.1 then restarted the Windows 10 upgrade process on its own. Clicking cancel seemed to do no good, and there's no obvious way to turn it off. I finally solved the problem by (a) uninstalling and hiding KB3035583 and (b) unchecking Windows 10 Upgrade in Advanced options.

What a nightmare. I'm guessing I wasted at least 8 hours in total. And it's left a very bad taste in my mouth.