High Speed Sports

Baseball at 5,000 FPS is pretty interesting stuff:

Davies says the camera is a Vision Research v642, which shoots high-def video and is regularly used to cover baseball games. But last night’s was specially modified by a company called Inertia Unlimited to shoot at an extra high frame rate and customized to use a Canon 200 mm 2.0 lens that allowed for an extra stop or two of light.

Physics of Baseball has a few GIF’s demonstrating just how awesome this really is. I’d love to see this demonstrated even beyond baseball. I’d imagine Football, Soccer, also being quite interesting to see. A kick at that speed and detail for example.

Number Based Consumerism

Number based consumerism is when a consumer bases their buying habits on one or more numbers typically part of a products specifications. You likely see this all the time, and perhaps even have been guilty of it yourself. It’s most prevalent in technology though it exists in other sectors.

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Taking Good Photos

The OkCupid blog has a pretty cool series of posts analyzing all sorts of data that they collect in anonymous ways. This time around they analyzed photos taken and tried to figure out trends behind what makes people attractive. Some of the more interesting things:

  • Panasonic cameras are better than Nikon,
  • Interchangable lens cameras (like digital SLRs) are better than basic point & shoot, which are better than camera phones.
  • iPhone users have more sex,
  • Flash makes you look older (obvious, harsh lighting is nobody’s friend).
  • Shallow depth of field is a good thing,
  • Late night, late afternoon photos are better.

In conclusion they say:

It’s actually not that hard. Use a decent camera. Go easy on the flash. Own the foreground. Take your picture in the afternoon. Then visit the nearest Apple store. Done.

Very interesting stuff. It’s a great example of what can be done with a large set of data. I’m guessing somewhere deep within Google and Facebook are a group of people doing even deeper analysis with a much larger set of data.

When The Laptop Watches You

Virtually everyone in the United States has now heard of the case in Lower Merion School District where administrators allegedly took thousands of pictures of students at home. They did this by using a school issued laptop that was equipped with a camera and software that could remotely access them. Kids often leave them in their bedrooms, and the rest is pretty self-explanatory.

The software LANrev (now renamed Absolute® Manage) intends for the feature to be used by administrators for the purposes of theft recovery. That obviously leaves an avenue for abuse.

If you or someone you know has a laptop with a camera that is managed by a third party, always assume they could have control of that device. A simple piece of opaque tape (I’d suggest electrical tape) over the camera will prevent any abuse of the camera. You can put a small piece of paper between the camera glass and tape to help avoid damage and clean it when you remove the tape before returning it. Harmless fix. Someone could in theory still listen using the microphone and view what’s on the screen at any given moment, but that’s a much smaller invasion of privacy than someone watching you get undressed in your own home. Use the computer only for school work if possible, and the rest isn’t much of an issue.

Someone did some digging into the software and it’s implementation at this particular school district, and quite frankly it’s a bit disturbing.

In a September 2009 post that may come to haunt this investigation, Perbix posted a scripting method for remote enable/disable of the iSight camera in the laptops. This post makes a lot more sense when Perbix puts it in context on an admin newsgroup, in a post which makes it clear that his script allows for the camera to appear shut down to user applications such as Photo Booth but still function via remote administration:

“what this does is prevent internal use of the iSight, but some utilities might still work (for instance an external application using it for Theft tracking”

This type of stuff should have set off some alarms. Good security doesn’t rely on obscurity or deceit.

The laptops have a light next to the camera that illuminates when the camera is activated, however the IT folks are alleged to have claimed the light appearing was a glitch according to the above link.

That said, school districts shouldn’t use laptops with cameras and microphones. Manufacturers should give those bulk purchasers the ability to have no camera installed. Alternatively they should be physically removed from the chassis by IT staff before being distributed to students. Disabling via software or policy isn’t going to stop this problem as long as the same people who control the laptops are the ones most likely to abuse it.

This is an interesting mix of hardware, software and policy security implications. The hardware worked correctly (it warned the user) but shouldn’t have existed. The software was abused and the policy was flawed. Lots of things can be learned here.

LG CU500

LG CU500Tonight I replaced my 2+ year old LG vx6000 with a LG CU500 [Amazon]. Family plan upgrade time.

I haven’t had too much time to play with it. Perhaps later I’ll take a few test photo’s outside in daylight (if it’s not raining) and see how they look, and perhaps upload them.

I first setup bluetooth between my Mac and my phone, just paired them up. Took about 10 seconds. Then tried to do the same with my Thinkpad. Took about 2 minutes, thanks to slightly more confusing software (never did either). Next task was to transfer a picture from the phone to the PC. After about 20 minutes I had no success on my Thinkpad, kept being told “Sending Cancelled” by the phone. Went over to the Mac, and it took no more than 15 seconds.

Everything is easier on a Mac.

I haven’t had to much time to play with it, but here are some initial impressions:

  • WOW!!!
  • Call quality seems very clear. Good indoor reception.
  • Seems like stronger vibrate mode than the vx6000, or maybe mine just got tired after so long.
  • 1.3 MP camera is surprisingly good… will need to purchase a memory card (MicroSD) tomorrow.
  • Recording video’s is super awesome… again, will need that memory card.
  • Bluetooth on Mac: sweet. Bluetooth on Thinkpad: ugh (see above).
  • Mp3 player looks pretty solid, again need memory card, though this is a feature I’m not really that interested in.
  • Menu’s very well laid out, organized, clear.
  • Build quality seems exceptionally good. I’ve held a couple of them now, and all are rock solid.
  • Comes with travel charger, rather than one with a stand… prefer the stand on my desk, no option to buy that. Hooking up the cable is more cumbersome than slipping it on the stand.
  • Apparently supports 3GPP, so a movie could be saved to the memory card… note: buy memory card.
  • No voice dialing (though is that really so critical?)
  • Buttons on the side are pretty slim and take some getting used to… not good for gorilla’s who use cell phones.
  • Bright vibrant screen, great looking case, again, great build quality.
  • Photo’s have EXIF data! Unlike the vx6000, which was a drag.