Category Archives: Hardware

Nokia LD-3W with Ricoh Caplio 500SE

Nokia LD-3W GPS module - a test shot taken at The Open University. The GPS location from the LD-3W is automatically included in the image file on the camera.

Nokia LD-3W GPS module - a test shot taken at The Open University. The GPS location from the LD-3W is automatically included in the image file on the camera.

We’ve just tried a Nokia LD-3W bluetooth GPS dongle with the Ricoh Caplio 500SE camera we’ve been using for taking photographs – and it rocks.

The LD-3W paired with the Ricoh bluetooth really easily (using the default PIN of 0000), the GPS signal details are then displayed on the camera’s LCD display and when an image is taken the current GPS co-ordinates are stored in the resulting image’s EXIF metadata. The battery in the GPS dongle seems to last all day and can be charged either using the car-charger cable that came with the device or a standard mains Nokia (skinny connector) phone charger.

This is a really easy way to GPS stamp our photos and for the money (£24.96 inc VAT) we’re very pleased with it.

Cheap IP cameras: the Edimax IC-3010WG

Edimax 3010wgA much cheaper solution for IP video than the Axis Q7401, the Edimax IC-3010WG network camera is only £80 from use-IP.co.uk. For your money, you get a white plastic camera with a choice of wired or wifi network connections with a maximum resolution of 640×480 at 30fps. Video streams are available in either M-JPEG or MPEG-4, with a built-in microphone and 3.5mm audio-output jack. The lens is fixed focal length and autofocus down to about 25-30cm, there is a reverse-SMA connector for the supplied wifi antenna on top of the unit and a 1/4″W standard camera tripod thread unusually placed on the back. Continue reading

First look at the Axis video encoder.

Axis Q7401

Axis Q7401 Status Lights

Yesterday was our first opportunity to take the brand new Axis Q7401 video encoder for a test drive. It’s a well engineered and rugged unit which takes composite video and turns it into an M-JPEG or h.264 MPEG-4 stream. The Q7401 can be powered by either 12v DC or PoE, has an SDHC slot for recording video straight to flash memory, audio inputs and outputs, a serial interface for remotely controlling camera movements and an I/O connector for (e.g) plugging in sensors, or switching lights and buzzers. Continue reading

UNR, revisited.

One of our netbooks needed rebuilding recently, and since we’ve not documented the installation procedure we used, now seems like a good time. We’ve been running our Asus EEE 901s on Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.04 (UNR), since the supplied Xandros is a little unfamiliar and limited for our needs. It’s mostly like normal Gnome-based Ubuntu except that it fixes some issues specific to netbooks, e.g. the small screen. There are similar distributions available – EasyPeasy and Moblin for instance, but we’ve been using UNR. Continue reading

Axis of Openness

Frustrated with the poor image quality and/or interfaces of our existing IP cameras, it’s time to search for better alternatives. New trends in IP camera technology include megapixel sensors, h.264 video encoding and, reportedly, open standards. There are several interesting open standards cameras on the market already:

Testing IP cameras, part 2

D-Link 3220gNow we’ve seen that the nice and simple DCS-900 is pretty handy when controlled from Linux with no ActiveX. Time to examine the much more complex DCS-3220g, which should give us MPEG-4 encoded video. It’s another rebadged Vivotek as far as we can tell.  This camera has a built-in WiFi radio as well as wired ethernet, has an interchangeable lens and should support a 2-way audio link. It comes with a Windows software package for managing multiple cameras. Continue reading

Testing IP cameras – pt.1

dlink dcs-900

Since ERA already has some IP cameras from previous years, it’s probably time to dust them off and try them out with the new Asus 901s. We have a pair of D-Link badged items – a DCS-900 wired-only Motion-JPEG camera with a maximum resolution of 640×480 pixels, and a much fancier DCS-3220g which has 802.11g WiFi as well as wired ethernet, full PAL -sized MPEG-4 as well as Motion-JPEG output, sound support via an internal mic and line output socket and an interchangeable CS-mount lens. Continue reading

Sipdroid works on G1 Android 1.5

Good news sipdroid works with our Asterisk server. Following up on a lead I received from Ben Charlton at the JISCRI developers workshop last week, I tried running sipdroid on a borrowed G1 Android phone (big thanks to Paul Hogan). The default SipDroid pretty much works, but you need to set the nat setting in the Asterisk sip.conf file to yes (see sipdroid website – issue 15). No big deal but SipDroid does not authetnticate without it.

Once I got over the above registration issue, it was just a case of setting the Asterisk audio codecs to include alaw. Seems pretty OK – supports a steady audio stream. We could use this with a separate webpage displayed on the phone web browser for showing images and the video stream. Currently the SipDroid does not display a remote video and I was unable to get it to stream video from the phone within SipDroid, but audio is certainly doable.

Using smartphones as …phones.

Early outdoor phone exchange

An early outdoor phone exchange

Could it be that the way to make a telephone call on a geology site would be to use a telephone? Now we seem to have some fairly stable WiFi networking hardware, and are considering that we might ditch the awkward netbooks for our ‘Sherpas’ in the field, perhaps we could use WiFi equipped smartphones for some of our outdoor networking needs?

Since we’re using SIP, we’ll need SIP software for any mobile phones we use, and there are obvious commercial reasons why most mobile service providers aren’t keen on this, but on the up side, bluetooth headsets are designed to be used with mobile phones so this could add another useful feature to the ERA toolkit.

Continue reading

Investigating video upgrades

During our field trials, it became clear that the built-in video camera on the Asus EEE 901 (and 701) is in the wrong place for our needs.

Using the Asus Eee PC 701's built in camera to capture geological features. The camera is built in to the top of the screen and is clearly designed for 'video diaries' or online video conferencing rather than capturing views of the landscape.

Using the Asus Eee PC 701's built in camera to capture geological features. The camera is built in to the top of the screen and is clearly designed for 'video diaries' or online video conferencing rather than capturing views of the landscape.

The 901 camera itself is a pretty good (for a plastic lens webcam) 1.3 megapixel device that’s supported in Ubuntu, but it faces the user, and we want it to face the rest of the world. Additionally, we found when using an external USB webcam, that being able to hold a smaller separate device or mount it on a helmet, rather than trying to point a whole netbook, was both easier and safer when clambering about on the rocks. From our experience and listening to the field geologists, we came up with a wish list of properties for a new video camera… Continue reading