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GPS Tracking for the Rest of us…

June 23rd, 2009 | Category: cypher-sec.org

Many feel the pain of losing a valuable device (such as an expensive cellphone).

Many don’t want, can’t afford or simply don’t feel the iPhone is worth the money, but would love the feature capability of tracking down their device when left somewhere like a bar, restaurant or cab.

First off (I love all my Mac stuff, so I’m NOT a hater)… despite what people think of my “devil’s advocate posts”. :P

On with the info: I personally use and prefer my Nokia N95, of which has had many functions the iThing brought out through “marketing” before and for a while now as well as doing some of them much better. ;)

One of those is the ability to track your device live and in the background, using it’s GPS, A-GPS or wifi. I ran into this 1st company while looking for a way to record my runs and biking times and trails. The application I started with on Symbian is by a company called 3DTracking. There product is great! It’s light on the processor, runs in the background, starts at boot (without the new handler’s knowledge and has features such as speed, direction and gps sat connection info, live tracking (obvious) recorded tracking, use of internal GPS or bluetooth GPS and distance in Miles or kilometers. The site you would track your device from (for free) is http://free.3dtracking.net and you can view it from nearly any device with a browser available today (although the site is built more for a computer screen’s size).

If you have a Symbian OS and want to give this a try, head on over to their site… I’m sure you will like it.

And, for those that don’t have an iThingy or a Symbian Device, you can always use Google’s Latitude (which works on many more devices than the above two and has been out longer then the iPhone’s app/function also. (I have to plug that since so many think the iThing is a god send that existed no where before “marketing”).

Anyway, with Google’s Latitude, you have the same features that 3Dtracking has (mentioned above) less speed (so far). Additionally, it’s viewable on just about any device for that “live tracking need” where “presently” you can’t view the live tracking info for an iThing from another iThing. And, like 3DTracking you can set the Latitude function of the google Maps app on your device to run in the background providing you with the same up to the date info you would need to find where your expensive device has walked off to.

It probably goes without saying, but (like any electronic or antenna based device)… you need a few things for this to work; power (to power the antenna and device so it does not die mid-search) and well, the correct antenna(s).

While you can use google Maps Latitude or 3DTracking from many mobile devices (including computers)… without cell coverage or an auto connected wi-fi hotspot, it cannot update it’s location info and thusly won’t be as “accurate” since that data could be delayed and reported when a connection is available to upload it’s location. So, THIS is where you will have to pay the cell company for data or hope the cell phone is in a location with wifi and your device was previously set to just latch on to an open network.

Keep those things in mind, you’re going to need a data connection (cell or wifi) that can report back the position of the device whether it’s found with the built in GPS, AGPS or wifi antenna(s).

And, if you think the iPhone can do these things without a data connection or visibility with the sky, think again. GPS is satellite based, and if you’re in poDunk (spelling) with no cell coverage and no wifi, in a covered storm hole the device can’t report back yet where it is, much less triangulate (which requires cell service or wifi hot spots) or “pinpoint” using GPS (not AGPS “triangulation”).

That’s a separate note, but in case your curious, AGPS is “assisted” global positioning. The A in assisted triangulates using cell or wifi connections to speed up GPS searching and or provide you with approximated location data while the GPS satellites are connecting to your device.

Hope that helps in your search to be like or beat out the iThings of the world. ;)

Below are two shots I snapped from my ‘puter using both 3DTracking and Google’s Latitude on my N95 at the same time. You can see how close they are (I’m across the street in a building). That is relying on week GPS (since I’m in the building) and Assisted GPS (triangulating me using cell and wifi locations). But both within… oh, 50ft of me.

Please let me know your thoughts and if this story or the noted items are helpful to you!

3DTracking’s PinPoint (click to see larger)

3DTracking

Here is a shot using Google Earth with 3DTracking and yes, it too is live!  So cool!
I’m in a brick building with no windows, (goes to show how well the wifi/agps/cellular triangulation works)!

googleEarthLive

Google Latitude’s PinPoint (click to see larger)

GoogleLat

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skyfire’s Awesome Mobile Browser!

November 20th, 2008 | Category: AT&T,ATT,GPRS,live stream,N95,N95-4 8GB NAM,Nokia,qik,TWIT

Up ’till now, I’ve added hacks, and workarounds, and multiple different browsers and software programs to all the different mobile devices I’ve owned, just to make it do things like, get a decent browsing experience (close to a full on computer), listen to audio (any), watch video and most important of all in todays “NOW” environment, do this all live!

Nokia came with a decent browser, capable of many things, but not enough, enter Opera…

I was hoping Opera’s browser would improve upon the lack of things Nokia’s browser was not capable of doing, (live audio/video, better browsing through “more like PC pages”), etc., sadly, no.

Opera would display pages a tad nicer, but that was about it.

What I REALLY wanted was the ability to watch streaming video LIVE! Not, download the video from YouTube or similar sites and watch it… but stream live while the situation unfolds.

Many devices say they stream, but in reality they were simply downloading a “file” to then watch (the buffer might have been the closest thing to an actual “stream”).

Today, I ran into a newer browser called, SkyFire.

SkyFire is currently available for S60 devices (N Series and E Series Nokia mobiles) and Windows Mobile.

I must say, I was more than shocked, as SkyFire did not advertise it’s ability to stream live content, it simply touted it as a browser more like your PCs browser. That alone intrigued me. After all, I had tried several other claiming similar things to no real avail.

This is exactly what I wanted! I was amazed! The first site I tested (simply due to the fact that I wanted a streaming experience) was my favorite live a/v guy, Leo Laporte at twitlive.tv Here is the footage I took while testing it.

 



Then I moved on to my mobile video streaming site Qik.com and sure enough, they both streamed the live content right as it came out of my mouth. It was odd looking at my delayed qik video being streamed up, and then back down to skyFire’s browser on my N95 (over AT&T’s sluggish 3G network), (it was kinda of like watching what I stream from my phone on my full on computer) but hey, it worked, worked well and I am VERY happy!

The browser does not stop there, complete with standard back, forward, enter URL, bookmark, fit to screen, and zoom -+ options, but, I’ll still most likely use my default Nokia browser for quick and dirty things as it’s not really feasible to view a web page built for a monitor resolution of 1024×768 or higher on a 320×240 screen (despite zooming, just too much scrolling at normal size). But when I need a more full on computer like experience, you can bet, I’ll be turning to my newest browser, SkyFire!

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Chicago Photosynth

October 24th, 2008 | Category: Camera Phone,HDR,N95,N95-4 8GB NAM,Nokia,photography,photosynth

If you spend enough time taking lots of decent photos, and drop them in Microsoft’s Photosynth, you can end up with a pretty cool project. (the “synthier” the better).

It can be difficult to get a high synthi rating with lots of photos, but as stated above, take time, get good shots and lots of them, and it will work out really cool.

Here are my most recent additions to my Photosynth collection, (shots of Chicago’s downtown skyline(s) and the Reflective Bean):





Additionally, I saw a really cool project called “gigapan” at Wired’s NextFest in Chicago. One of the bummers of GigaPan is that you can’t upload your photos and have it auto stitch… you have to stitch it first and then upload the panoramic photo. Granted Photosynth is not exactly panoramic, it’s got that 3D in/out functionality that Gigapan seems to be trying for.

With that, I’m in the process of stitching the Chicago 3 Photosynth using CleVR’s service and will upload it to GigaPan to make a comparison. This could take a bit, so come back to see the results and compare. Please let me know your thoughts and if you’ve seen other similar or better services.

My next goal, is to merge HDR images I’ve created (all using my Nokia N95-4 8GB), and some tight shots both stitched and in Photosynth, to get some super impressive results. Again, come back and see. :)

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beta tested qik software version 0.08.72

Thanks to the awesome developers at qik.com, I was able to get a beta version of the most recent qik software for my Nokia N95 8GB 0.08.72!  Let me tell you, it was well worth it!

I’ve used their software since the original version, and it’s been great… except for a few little quirks/desires.

I recently road the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic, 2008 again this year (my 8th time, thank you.  :)  Anyway, I had a few problems with the first version(s) of qik’s software in that, the back light (screen) would always stay lit, making it a major suck on the battery life, and, the inability to run in the background (use other apps while recording).

Enter “request” of the qik developers, of course what I wanted the features for (the 204 mile bike ride)… and they added both giving me the newest beta version to test out on this ride!  I probably don’t have to tell you, just those two features alone, made a HUGE difference functionality and longevity!  Not only did I get a massive increase in stream life (due to the light shutting off automatically), but I was also able to record with the camera in the background saving me from accidentally stopping it with bangs against the handle bars!

Having the camera in the background (using “stay in background”) was a life saver for a few reasons.  I could utilize other apps while I was recording, making it nice to grab information and relay it as you record, say, you’re doing an interview, and you need to Google info, or shoot a plurk or tweet, pick up a phone call, etc. etc.  With this newest version of Qik 0.08.72 you can do just that and not have to stop the recording or be limited to the 10 second time out if you leave the screen.  (picking up a phone call may stop the stream anyhow on a cell network, (unless your streaming on wi-fi))

Additionally, if you’ve left the qik screen, while it’s recording in the background, those annoying accidental depressions of a button that might stop your stream (like in my case of constant banging against handle bars), don’t happen.  Yeah!!  :)

The second feature, is a no-brainer.  (auto light off or “Economy mode”). We all know when the light/screen is active on any portable device, it sucks the juice from your battery VERY quickly.  Well, by simply allowing the back light to shut off while recording, basically doubled my recording time.  That was awesome!  OK, so I wasn’t able to get the entire 204 miles streamed, but hey, how many want to watch someone ride 204 miles?  Even the Tour de France takes breaks and has some commercial interruptions.  Saves on some motion sickness. ;)

One cool thing about qik (in a situation like this) is it’s live (it’s not yesterday).  While riding the STP this year, I saw some individuals riding in front of a pickup with a lady and her heavy high quality, (slowing the ride) camera.  Although great that they can give you that 2 mile an hour quality video, I think it’s over, it’s done, I’ve streamed it for you while it happened using QIK.com’s service.  You can watch it as it happens or well, later.  :)

If you’re curious about the ride I’ve been referring to (the STP), see this post.  I’ve included some screen shots of the new version’s “options menu”.  Great work Qik Team!

Now for audio and (PIP) Picture in Picture for other incoming qikers, full on Video phone, here we come!  :) And AT&T (at this time), a better cell network so I can use 640×480 more frequently.  :)

On a site/api functionality level, it would be great if we could post “updates” like “I’m streaming live right now…” to an email address.  I love that qik auto posts to twitter, but I’d like to do the same with other SNs.  Many SNs have an email we can send to.  If we could set up email addresses to notify when we are live, that would seal a MAJOR gap in the notification process.  No?  :)


Click the image to see a better res view:

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Fanboy Now an Official Word in the Dictionary!

July 08th, 2008 | Category: John C Dvorak,tech5
Pioneer entering the Blu-ray disc market. Good. New words added to the dictionary including FANBOYS and MALWARE. Sony keeps updating PS3 software. They had better get the PS4 going fast! New canon camera upstaged by Hasselblad 50 Megapixel camera. Huge Kodak sensor inside. Latest Yahoo-Microsoft news getting weird. IBM will be paid by state of NY to keep employees. Huh? Orkut fabulous in India. Nokia wastes money on research. Guess what they found out? Listen and find out. tech5
Click to listen:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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I’ve been Qiking like crazy…

I need to do a video comparison of the recordings my Nokia N95-4 8GB NAM does on it’s own (stored locally) and those that Qik.com allows me to stream at its highest quality.  I tell you, if the qualities are anywhere near the same, Qik will be most likely replace my local video storage all except for those moments I just can’t stream.  :)  I recently recorded my bike ride utilizing numerous functions of my phone to get a real good test of things.

I received my wind powered (solar backed up) charger and mounted it to my bike.  Once that was on, I turned on my devices GPS (using free.3dtracking.net) to record my ride, I turned on the music so I’d be have something to pedal too and utilized the front camera of my device to stream via Qik’s mobile audio/video streaming service!

I tell you, this just rocked!  Not only did I start off with less than a full battery, but, I road for an hour (recorded for 59.30 minutes) and used all those things the entire time.  Once I stopped, and unplugged my device from the wind powered charger I still had 4 bars.  The wind powered charger did exactly what it said it would, and streaming on the lower end of Qik’s service was great.  Using all those things without a charge station of some sort would really put the drain on your battery and it would be dead in less than an hour (I’ve tested this just by recording using qik.com (not playing music or using GPS, just recording on qik).)

I was most likely on AT&T’s 3G (HSDPA) service the whole time, and never saw a (delay indication).  Granted I was not always looking, I’ve managed to drive with it and have no delay indicator.

I streamed up to qik, recorded the entire time, (the screen stays lit while recording with qik) and as we all know, screen activity reall drains a battery.  I was constantly pulling a gps signal from a min of 9 sats, and uploading my position every 30 seconds to track using free.3dtracking.net and playing the music.

All in all, I’m very impressed with all the features mentioned above.  The Nokia N95-4 8GB NAM rocks, Qik.com rocks, free.3dtracking.net rocks, and so does thinkgeek.com’s solar and wind powered charger!

How will I ever make this “analog thing” work?  :(

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Additional Qik Testing…

Ok, in testing Qik further today, I managed to get an entire 120:30 minutes recorded!!! On an odd note, Qik only represents it as an 18:09 min file, although the entire recording seems to be there. :) Now that is freakin’ awesome! I just dinked around, sat down and watched a movie and checked it when the movie was done!

I tell ya, (despite that it’s not high-def, hey the camera is not), it beats not having that kind of storage on many devices, espically if you want to record everything, and walks all over Comvu PocketCaster’s 100mb of storage. All you really have to worry about with Qik’s service (as far as I can tell at this point) is a net connection for the broadcast/recording and juice (battery). I had to plug my N95 in, but since I was connected to my wi-fi, I was fine for connectivity!

I recently purchased a solar and wind powered charger from thingeek.com to mount to my bike and or other portable situations and will be recording some riding as weather permits. :)

I’m guessing that Qik will handle as well (if not better) than Comvu’s PocketCaster with 3G (HSDPA) in streaming content, but we will see how well it holds up to that type of connection while traveling on a bicycle at 20+ mph for 16+ miles. Cell hand-offs can be a pain, even for calls, so it will be a great test to see a transmission in movement. Obviously I won’t be able to blog on it while riding (except for the concentrated grunts and oofs) and it would be better blogged about after I view the recorded stream, but feel free to comment if you are watching it live when I do it, I do believe that will show up in the view comments.

I’m not sure what days will be nice enough to ride here in Seattle soon (as I don’t have a weather proof holder for my bike yet)… but I’ve ordered a case that will allow me to mount the phone to the bike along with the chargers. Once I receive those, I’ll blog that I will test or that I have tested and you can check it out then… (it should be soon as they are all in the mail)!

Lastly (for tonight)… I use a free live GPS tracking service called “3DTracking“… I plan to use that at the same time as I like to record my rides and my fiancee likes to watch me ride up to her work or see where I am on a long ride! :) For Qik, I am requesting such a service be built in conjunction with the next software build! It would rock if I could not only record massive life experiences, but where they took place as well without having to write it all down later… exif baby, exif! People could not only see the live experience but view exactly where it is on the map at the same time (again, always live!)

Thanks for the GREAT software, I promise to keep testing it like crazy!!

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My Stickam cams…

Well, I had these going (or visible) on my forum. Now that the forum is inactive, I needed a place to stickam (no pun intended).

I’ll try and better organize media and copy on my blog later. For now, at least the content is there for those that may have actually viewed it. :)

Obviously as before, if you see HAL… then I’m not live on that cam.

This is my work Cam This is my home Cam or iBook Cam

And if you look at the pocketCaster post below you’ll get the live mobile cam from my Nokia N95 8Gb – NAM. :)

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PocketCaster vs Qik Live Mobile Streaming…

Well, I can’t really do a VS.. but the title makes you look. :)

Reason I can’t do a comparison at this point is ’cause no matter how many times I sign up for QIK, I get the same, “we’ll let you know when were ready for you’ type of statement. It’s actually kind of annoying. So, I went with Comvu for software called “PocketCaster.” PocketCaster is a similar service that allows you to stream from your mobile device (in my case the Nokia N95-4 NAM).

So far, it’s a killer app. Simple install, simple usage, and (for a live mobile stream where most devices are not capable of that yet), it’s not to shabby. :)

I can stream using my front cam (the smaller lower res one) or the main (back) cam which still seems to be compressed for the upload, but again, still cool and convenient.

Again, it’s LIVE, not pre-recorded! :) I have all the connectivity options, wi-fi, standard cell data connection, GPRS, 3G, EDGE, HSDPA as well as the ability to store the file locally or remotely for that “pre-recorded” archive. :)

Quality options range from 24kbps to 160kbps, of course I set mine to the highest.

It also has a GPS location functionality, which I assume will let viewers know exactly where you are. Now that rocks. My first test was indoors, so I did not bother testing the location function, but will let you know how that goes.

My second, third and fourth tests were outside on a walk from home and after viewing the archived footage and hear/rather seeing the IMs my friend in the NL was sending me (while I was narrating and strolling home in the rain) touring them a bit around Seattle, were, “this is just amazing!!” Streaming over wi-fi was great at home, but over 3G and EDGE it worked beautifully, which is a nice thing considering a walk down the street on a router (wi-fi) does not get you very far (no hand off like a cell tower). Thusly I was very happy to see how well it did over standard cell connectivity. :)

The one thing I wish was added was the “always ask” feature the N95 typically uses for data connectivity… as you have to manually set your connection option, which can be annoying to have to go in and change if you’re not near wi-fi.

Over all, my first few tests are way cool and super fun. Now, if I could only get an account and software for quick for a better comparison!

The embedded player was slowing the blog load, so I removed the embeded player and added a link to the right column.  Or, here.  :)

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Nokia N95-4 8GB NAM review…


This is a great product, superior to the iPhone by far!!

I’ve wanted an N95 since the first version came out, and I’m happy it’s only better with the newest NAM version with a built in 8GB card.

I would have appreciated an included expansion card slot, as I will quickly use the 8GB if not for applications for music and movies, but it’s acceptable.

I am very happy that it has all the needed freqs for the US both voice and data, which really make the experience of making calls or using the net all that much better.

The GPS freakin’ rocks!.. to bad the free 6 month plan that shows on the box is really only 1 day. I’m not willing to pay for GPS navigation since most cheaper units come with it for free. So, I turned to a better java application to replace Nokia’s pay GPS (not once by the way, but monthly) called amAze GPS, it has all that Nokia’s “maps app” offers and more.

The 5MP camera and near DVD quality video is the best, no other all in one device offers something that high (yet).

The video out is nice, although it seems to show at the phones resolution, not ntsc resolution or higher (320×240 I believe, so the images are jagged or pixelated on TV)… so I might use it for a full on movie, but it’s nice for surfing on a bigger screen or watching things like YouTube, (included) etc. where my computer (already attached to the HD TV is not on, not sure how that would happen. ;)

I could go on and on, but over all, Nokia has always provided an excellent working and well built product, and I’m VERY happy I went with their newest N95-4 8GB NAM. I don’t know what cause me to stray.

As for mobileCityOnline, their service was great. I admit, I had been burned online before, so was skeptical when I placed the “pre-order” since their orders kept getting pushed back by the manufacturer or shipped in smaller quantities, but the customer service was great in respect to keeping me informed and the natural process of their specific business with outside manufacturers… so that made me feel good. As for their shipping, can’t say it was more than prompt. I paid an extra $10 bucks for next day service, and as soon as the device came in their warehouse, sure enough it was next day I got it!!! Now that is excellent!

I would recommend this product and mobileCityOnline for it’s purchase. Hey, it saved me several hundred from the manufacture or Nokia store price! :)

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