Tag Archive for Gadgets

It took me 7 minutes to break my Syma S107c helicopter

I’m playing around with nano copters, the first I picked up was the “Syma S107c”:http://www.amazon.com/Syma-Channel-Control-Helicopter-Recording/dp/B0081VOEZM. Cheap and has a camera.

So super simple to set up, it comes assembled, you just need to connect the camera up, charge the copter, load batteries in the controller, and go. First run was indoors, and the copter was pretty uncontrollable due to body rotation. In theory you can use bias wheels on the controller to fix this but didn’t seem to work that well.

The camera was easy to use in theory but all my movies were blank, and then the camera USB connection wouldn’t work.

So then an outside flight. Still uncontrollable and then I had a hard landing from 8 feet onto pavement and boom, parts everywhere. I may be able to get it back together.

If this thing had a sensor/fb mechanism to control rotation, and a height sensor to prevent damaging drops, it would be infinitely more fun…

UPDATE: Ok reassembly successful. The camera payload is super fragile and pops apart easily. And when that happens, the copter decides not to fly. But reassembled, and i got a little better at using the bias wheel to control the rotation. Successfully took my first movies.

Quick gadget reviews — sphero, twine

The “sphero”:www.gosphero.com is nicely done and drives dogs crazy. Solid packaging and works. But it is crazy expensive for a little gadget. I appreciate everything that has gone into it, but it just costs too much. Because I really want a fleet of them so that I can do things like “this video”:http://www.techrockies.com/sphero-s-robots-impress-in-nyc-christmas-video/s-0046561.html. But at $100+ my fleet is going to be small.

The “Twine”:www.supermechanical.com is also slick. Super easy setup, nice directive packaging. Not as polished as the sphero but of course a different target. Also too expensive because I want $20 of these. Not so clear why the twine is so expensive, the bom has to be less than the sphero.

But both are inspiring — nicely executed and they meet their promise. Really fun to see products like this exist. How cool would it be if they could work together! I want my sphero to flash red and go into panic motion if my twine detects too much heat.

The size of our gadgets

Some smart guys have noticed that “internally, the iPad looks more like a battery with a computer than a computer with a battery”:http://daringfireball.net/2010/04/the_ipad. This is a pretty fundamental point.

I remember back in my first job, working on automotive electronics strategies, someone asked me “how small can a CD player be” and to me it was clear — size would be dominated by the media and the controls, not by the internal electronics.

When we started buying PCs and TVs and cellphones and other gadgets, their sizes were dominated by internal considerations — tubes and motherboards and drives and power supplies and electronics and antennas and all kinds of crud. And we are still in the last stages of this — desktop computers are still big boxy things, many laptops are big chunky things. But thanks to Moore’s law, the electronics are in the last stages of disappearing, and with them the big clunky power supplies, and awkward big antennas, spinning disks, etc. The gadgets we carry will have their sizes driven by human interaction needs, and those damn batteries (getting batteries down in size/weight is a hard problem).

Which is why I think questions like “Which will win, the Kindle or iPad”, or “Will the iPad replace notebooks” are ultimately not very interesting. When gadgets all are lightweight and no bigger than they have to be, and electronics are basically free, and connectivity is ubiquitous, you’ll carry all kinds of these things around or have them in your house and not worry about it, just like we never worried about books vs magazines vs newspapers.

Gadget packing

A sad fact of modern life. When I pack for a trip these days, my packing planning and time is dominated by gadget packing.

Just carrying the gadgets isn’t that hard. MacBook, iPhone, Kindle, Canon 5d. Ok I have to plan lenses for the Canon a little, and actually there is a whole endless morass of camera decisions brought on by carrying a good dslr — lenses, filters, cases, tripod, etc. But let’s pretend this all away.

Power is the next challenge. Wall wart for MacBook. Wall and car chargers for iPhone because the iPhone wants to be charged often. Kindle charger if travelling for > 5 days or if not fully charged. Extra canon battery and/or charger. Tried ChargePod as a charging consolidation device for a while but hardware failed. Tried one of the aux battery packs for iPhone, it was not effective.

Ok, next, various connectors for playback and transfer. Earbuds, check. Currently using Shures and happy with them. iPhone USB cable (part of charging kit thankfully). Want to output Macbook video/pix or iPhone video/pix to tv/monitor? Bring the connectors. Need to get photos off canon onto MacBook during trip? CF reader. Oh and a USB flashdrive always helpful.

Long trip? Will need extra CF cards, as well as external USB drive with master photo storage.

Ok that is all the physical. Virtual packing now. Kindle is easy, holds all the books I can read on even the longest trip, and updateable over the air (in the US). Music? My Iphone can’t carry all my music, do I have right playlists and subset? Movies on iPhone? Same issue, do I have the ones I want loaded? Docs — I use google Docs, so easy to get access, as long as I can get wifi. Tv shows? Trying to get slingbox working right now to solve that.

Convergence has allowed me to dump some devices — vidcam (canon or iPhone are fine, and I don’t vid much), nintendo ds (iPhone casual games are fine). Those would have all their own attendant power/connector/media issues.

I use Eagle Creek pouches in various sizes to organize all this. Otherwise you have a mad tangle.

What would make all this better? Clearly better battery life, wireless charging would be great. Great cloud storage with local cache for all media would help. Device convergence is not something I care about, there are reasons why dslrs and ebooks and phones and pcs should be different devices. I will be interested to see what my kit looks like in 5 years.