Tag Archives: streaming

Compacting memories

My folks had me cleaning out my old bedroom this holiday. In fact I found the whole house to be in disarray when I got home. A large slice of lawn is now a concrete slab and a portion of the roof is missing. I’m struggling to see the patio-vision right now but I’m sure it will turn out nicely in the end.

Back in my room I was given two boxes and a black garbage bag. The bag was simply for ‘garbage’, one box got filled with giveaways and the other was for storing memories in the garage among the fowls.

It’s amazing the things that human beings will collect. My stowaways include a huge jar of marbles, which I won during my junior school days, all the Tintin and Asterix and Obelix books, and a few Beanos. These are among a collection of comic books, playing cards, schoolbooks and love letters (from my wild High School days).

Then I have my prize collection of deodorant cans – convinced that these will be a popular antique to have one day when they stop making certain brands, just like soft drinks or biscuit tins. I even left a smidgen of scent in each can so that I might be able to recall some odorous memories when I finally unearth them. It’s amazing how smell can bring about a flood of memories…

Photography: past and present
Yet the one thing that I’m sure we are all guilty of accumulating are copious amounts of photographs. Some of us have been really disciplined and set aside a good few weeks of our lives to order these into photo albums.

A collection of photographsHowever, I was surprised to find that I only had a handful of photos to speak of – ones that were at least taken by myself. I then realised that every photo that I have from varsity onwards is sitting neatly in a digital folder on my computer labeled ‘my photos.’

And I have thousands of these! Yet I remember setting aside a good few hours of my life to order every last one into distinct folders and even turned a few collections of them into videos, which will be forever stored on the internet. Well until it crashes in 2023 of course…

However, there is still nothing more satisfying for an aspiring photographer or hobbyist to whip out an ordered photo album when guests are around, or having your favourite ones on permanent display within an aesthetically pleasing frame. It’s also great looking at old black and white photos or ones with that historical sepia tint. My folks have a whole wall of the house dedicated to those. They’ve entertained guests on the way to the toilet for years.

But this is the year 2009! I am content with the idea that mom and dad’s house is becoming a unique museum of photography (at least inside) and I’m keen to look to the future. Enter the digital photo frame.

[The digital photo frame enters]
This piece of technology doesn’t need much explanation – it is what it’s called: a photo frame that stores digital photographs. It has an LCD screen which can display a series of photographs in a slideshow and a USB port to load on new photos whenever one feels the need.

One is also able to choose how long each photo will display itself for and choose what transitions will take place between photos. These digitised frames can also be connected to the internet to download new content and can, of course, be connected to digital cameras.

The digiframeThere are just a few issues to take note of. One is to ensure that the frame has its own internal memory card so that it may operate independently of your camera’s memory card. Roughly speaking, a 2 Gigabyte SD card should store up to 1000 images.

Another factor is to ensure that the device has a decent battery life. Unfortunately the general battery life is between 1-3 hours, but most frames have an internal clock that can be set to switch the device on and off during different times of the day.

The other thing to realise is that the quality of the photographs might not be that great, especially for the entry-level digital frames. Depending on the size of the frame/screen (which range from five to 32 inches) one should hope for 800×600 resolution.

An 8 megapixel camera takes photos at a much higher resolution than this and I imagine the digital frame will compress these. So if you know a bit of Photoshop it might be useful to resize you chosen photos before loading them on as this will ensure that you fit in the maximum number with the highest quality possible.

Cost and context
One would expect such as modern-sounding piece of technology to be expensive, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. I saw an entry-level frame in an Incredible Connection catalogue for R600, which is not a lot considering the price of posh, non-digital photo frames.

The more advanced digital frames are obviously pricier, but are able to do a lot more. I’ve come across some that can play videos, MP3s and display text. Others come with wi-fi, touch screens and light sensors and can connect to the web remotely and stream online galleries from sites such as Flickr.

Now imagine a photo frame dedicated to your wedding day. It could begin with a worded introduction to set the scene, saying something like “Mr and Mrs Right were married in Perfect Park on a Friday, April 13”. This could be followed by a short video of the ceremony and lead into a slideshow with the wedding couple’s favourite song playing in the background. I smell a money-making opportunity… And that idea is absolutely free. I’m all about sharing.

I can see it all now: my digitised and compacted wedding memories displaying in all their modern glory in my future living room, with a box of empty deodorant cans hiding in the attic.

Sling this into your gadget collection

SLINGBOX: Embracing broadband and digital media

PAGING through an old GQ the other day I came across a gadget that struck a new interest. The “Slingbox” (weird name) is a TV streaming device that allows you to remotely view your home cable, satellite, or personal video recorder (PVR) programming using a device with a broadband Internet connection.

It connects to the back of your TV and works by redirecting or “placeshifting” up to four live audio/video signals to your personal computer, laptop, or internet-enabled mobile device whether you’re touring China or are in London on a business trip. And there’s no anxiety of having yet another gadget to clutter up your home – once your Slingbox is installed you never have to see it again.

The SlingboxSling Media has also released a Windows Mobile version of their player which allows users to stream their video over a Pocket PC or Windows Mobile Smartphones, or any web-enabled, Windows mobile-powered cellphone. This is useful for practical reasons as a cellphone is easier to stuff into your duffle bag when traveling to the most remote locations.

The Slingbox also allows you to program your home recording device remotely, which means that you can command your device to record programs from anywhere. So no more having to phone the kids at home to ask them to record Prison Break for you, or having to rely on an unreliable in-law.

Yet, like Manto Tshabalala, the Slingbox isn’t perfect. The system is not yet reliable or broadband enough to handle live remote broadcasts, and is not yet available for Linux or other opensource systems. It also requires a fair amount of techno savvy to set up, which can be a bit of a schlep, yet there is decent customer support available. SlingCommunity, for example, is an interactive online community dedicated solely to Sling Media’s Slingbox.

The cons
It is, however, important to bear in mind that the viewing quality is that of web video (i.e. 320x240pixels). Consequently you basically need to have twenty-twenty vision to be able to view everything properly on the small video-viewer screen. This renders on-screen text such as sports scores, news reels, and the fine-print print in bank adverts as unreadable.

The Slingbox is also only as good as its device support and relies on your primary video device being compatible. So just like upgrading a PC, you might have to buy more than you initially bargained for.

In terms of future developments, it was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show that Sling Media plans to release a future feature known as Clip+Sling. This will allow users to share clips of their favorite TV shows (or videos that they have produced themselves) with each other through a hosted web service.

Sling has also pledged that its software will work on the forthcoming Origami Ultramobile PCs (you can read more about this nifty gadget here).

The Slingbox is currently going for $200 (roughly R1400) and appears to be a useful gadget to add to ones collection. Let’s just hope that true broadband hits SA soon so we can play too.

Slingbox Homepage
Other Sling Media Products
CNET’s exclusive First Look video using Sling software.
Related blog post: Welcome to your future