Thursday, January 1, 2015

GoPro Hero 4 Silver plus GoPro App

Application: iPhone, iPad and Android
Function: HD Video and Photo POV Camera
Rating:*****
Cost: Camera $129 to $499, GoPro app and software free!

Guess what Santa brought me for Christmas?  Yes, a GoPro Silver! I have been looking at these cameras with envy for the last couple of years.  I am a confessed YouTube junky and have enjoyed watching all the great videos that are posted. Now it is my turn to get in on the POV action scene. Look forward to some cool videos in the future. My YouTube site is: https://www.youtube.com/user/MarkMesserli

I want to wish you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR! 2014 was a great year and I look forward to 2015 with anticipation. I always say "Life is Short, attempt to have an interesting one"

 GoPro is the leading maker of Point of View/POV cameras in the world.  It all started by some surfer dude name Nicolas Woodman who wanted to take rad shot of he and his bros riding some gnarly waves. He got some investment money from his Mom and Dad and GoPro was born. His early models were 35MM cameras and in 2006 he released the digital GoPro.

Just when you thought all the great ideas were already thought of, a tiny POV digital camera was made, the company goes public and another American success story is born.

These cameras have started a video revolution never before seen in history. YouTube and every other video site are flooded with GoPro action video.  We are seeing the world from a perspective never before seen in history with these tiny mobile cameras.

Their small size and HD+ quality has allowed all these crazy adrenaline junkies to record themselves boating, sailing, snowboarding, skydiving, mountain climbing, wake boarding, snow skiing, scuba diving, surfing, driving, biking and flying. Its small size and mounting options make it easy to take anywhere the action is.
The Cameras

What is so unique about the GoPro cameras is that they were the first compact very high quality HD cameras. A lot of  less capable copy cats have shown up in the past few years. The GoPro cameras HD+ resolution makes them equal to any professional broadcast quality production camera. Their latest model, the Hero 4 now shoots 4K, 2.7K, 1080, 960p, 720p resolution color video and 12 megapixel pictures.

The present generation of GoPro Cameras include the Hero4 Black for $499, the Hero4 Silver for $399, the Hero3 Silver for $2.99, Hero3 White for $199 and the Hero for $129

Hero4 Silver Features:
  • Touch screen display
  • Waterproof case to 131ft
  • Touch screen backdoor waterproof to 10ft
  • Field of View, Ultra Wide Medium and narrow
  • Ultra sharp all glass lens
  • Low light performance
  • Video, 4K 15 and 12.5fps,
  • 2.7K 30,25,24 fps, 2.7K 4:3,
  • 1440P, 48, 30, 25, 24fps
  • 1080P, 60,50,48,30,25,24fps, superview
  • 960P, 100,60,50fps Ultra Wide FOV
  • 720, 120, 60,50,30,25fps Ultra wide, medium and narrow FOV
  • WVGA 240fps ultra wide FOV
  • Camera - 12 megapixels,
  • Burst rates 30/1, 30/2, 30/3, 10/1 10/2, 10/3, 5/1, 3/1 frames per second
  • Time Lapse .5,1,2,5,10,30 60 seconds
  • Built in WiFi+Bluetooth
  • Protune (photo and video)
  • Superview
  • Nightview
  • Highlight tag
  • Quick Capture - one button auto on
  • Simultaneous Video and photo
  • Looping Video
  • Bit Rate(H.264) up to 45 b/s
  • Audio - Mono 48KHZ 2x dynamic range, 3.5mm stereo microphone
  • Re-chargeable battery 1160 mAh lithium ion
  • Micro SD card class 10 up to 64GB
  • USB mini, composite AV, stereo mic
  • Free GoPro Editing Software
GoPro offers so many options it is hard to decide which model to purchase.  I looked at the Hero4 Black option. It cost another $100 dollars more than the Silver but it does not have the touch screen display that the Hero4 Silver model has.  The advantage of the Hero 4 Black is that it has a few more options in the 4K and 2.7 K video modes.  I don't plan on shooting much in these resolutions so these added features did not seem worth the money. I was more interested in the LCD touch screen display on the back of the Hero4 Silver.  It comes with a special touch screen back door which allows you to view and control your GoPro with a swipe of your finger.

The GoPro App:

The GoPro app allows control of the camera over WiFi from an iPhone using the iOS compatible app from iTunes or from the Android app from the Google Play store.

The app connects via WiFi plus Bluetooth. The Bluetooth connection only seems to be used to detect incoming connections so it can keep the WiFi off and save power. This feature is currently only supported in the iOS version.

The new WiFi transfer speeds are 50% faster than previous models. There is still a slight lag in viewing the video or image on the iPhone over WiFi.

To connect to your camera to your mobile device, select the gear icon in the top right corner of the app and follow the instructions to start WiFi and pair the camera with Bluetooth.

The app allows you to watch the GoPro Channel and view all the coolest GoPro videos and photos from around the globe. 

Once connected to your camera the app provides full remote control of all camera functions and settings.


You can play back the videos and photos that are on your camera on your mobile device. This is a handy feature to preview your videos and photos on the larger iPhone or iPad screen.

The app allows copying photos and videos to your mobile device. These files can then be shared via email, text, on Facebook or Twitter or other apps.

Functionality is also provided to browse and delete files on the camera’s microSD card if needed. Updating your cameras software can also be done wirelessly with the app.


Select the red button at the bottom of the display to take a photo or start and stop recording of video.  The image will be show in real time so you can use the mobile device to frame your shot.

All settings including Video, Photo, Multi-shot, Setup, Camera name and passwords can be modified from your mobile device with the app.

The app displays the resolution and frame rate in the upper left. WiFi status and battery state are shown in the upper right.

Options for movie, picture and burst picture mode can be selected easily on the screen of the iPhone app.

Video, Video+Photo and Looping modes can be selected by tapping the Video camera icon at the bottom of the screen. Video+ Photo lets you take a photo while taking video. The looping mode will take continuous video filling up the microSD card and copying over the oldest footage.

Settings can be accessed by selecting the wrench icon in the lower right. All camera settings can be set with the app.

All of the saved movies and photos can be seen by selecting the checkerboard in the lower left of the display.

The camera can be shut off using the power button in the top right of the screen.



Accessories:
GoPro has produced a wide range of accessories to accent their line of camera.  The battery BacPac allows the addition of battery capacity and is easily snapped on the back of the camera.

The camera and batteries are all charged using a standard USB cable connection. It retails for $49.99


The WiFi remote can be used to control your GoPro camera much like the app. Use it to start and stop the video or take pictures remotely. Settings can also be changed from the remote.

The remote can be programmed to control up to 50 different cameras. It has a range up to 600 feet. The WiFi remote retails for $79.99

The LCD BacPac can be easily snapped on the back of the GoPro to provide a view of the action.  Use it to easily frame your shots and follow the action. The LCD BacPac retails for $79.99

There are other small POV cameras out there.  I have even bought a few of them myself.  I prefer the GoPro because of its cutting edge technology and the hundreds of different mounts that are made to support the product. A whole new industry is developing around support of these cameras.

I know there are a lot of boaters and sailors out there that use GoPro camera. What are you using yours for?

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
Mark




Saturday, December 20, 2014

Vexilar SonarPhone now on Navionics


Application: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, >iOS 4.3 and Android 2.0
Function: Marine Depth, Fishfinder, Sonar
Rating: *****
Cost: App is free, T-Box $149/$199

Along comes a company called Vexilar to shake up the sonar and fish finder world. They are a Midwestern company located in Minneapolis Minnesota. It is fitting they would be located in a state famous for great fishing and known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes.  They are probably more well known for their line of fish finders and underwater cameras for fishing and ice fishing applications.

They recently set the fishing world on fire with their SonarPhone application for smartphones and tablets along with the T-Pod and T-Box products.

Vexilar has their own free app called SonarPhone which comes in an iOS version or Android version found in iTunes and the Google Play store.

So, why am I so excited about this fish finder sonar?  Well, Navionics has recently released an update to their Boating and Charting apps that also incorporates the SonarPhone capabilities into their Marine apps.

If you purchase any of the T-Pod or T-Box products they can be easily connected to the Navionics app to provide sonar data and a depth display.  To get started, power the T-Box sonar unit up. On your mobile device enter Settings/WiFi and select the T-Box WiFi network.  Go back and open the Navionics app and the Sonar data should automatically be displayed on your chart display. See this YouTube video for easy setup instructions.

You can access the demo through the app in Menu/Charts and Upgrades. Select SonarPhone under Features.

Navionics app T-Box demo under Charts and Upgrades

Navionics App Note Sonar icon in bottom left on iPad

Navionics App Sonar chart split screen view on iPad
 

Vexilar App Features:
  • WiFi Connectivity to T-Pod, SP-200 and SP-300
  • Multiple user access via WiFi
  • Automatic Ranging
  • Transmit Range: 90 yards
  • Water Temperature, Depth Indicator
  • Audible Alarms for Fish/ Shallow/Low Battery
  • Gain settings
  • Depth Range
  • Depth alarm
  • Color Options
  • Fish Icon
  • Zoom Bottom Track
  • Noise Rejection
  • Chart speed
  • Keel Offset
  • Fish Alarm
  • Surface Clarity
  • Battery Indicator and alarm
  • Screen controls: Touch screen, split screen display with touch screen zoom control.
Vexilar SonarPhone App display features

Vexilar SonarPhone app iPhone
Vexilar SonarPhone app settings

Specifications - SP200 & SP300 Wi-Fi Boat Sonar
  • Permanent boat installation: (#SP200 only)
  • Portable boat installation w/suction cup transducer bracket: ( #SP300 only)
  • Transducer: High-speed skimmer-style transducer with keel offset and 6 meters of cable.
  • Max depth range: 240 Feet
  • Sonar frequency: 200/83 kHz
  • Dual Beam: 20º/40º
  • Power source: 12V DC power
  • Power output: 800 Watts Peak-to-Peak
  • Transmit speed: 100 Mbps
  • One year warranty
  • Included 12V, 4.5 amp-hour battery and charger. (#SP300 only)
  • Carry case with 12 volt battery and charger: (#SP300 only)

Vexilar offers several sonar units. The first is the T-Pod which is an rechargeable unit that can be towed or set in the water near your boat.  The onboard battery lasts about 4 hours. It has a water activated transmitter that will automatically start when it hits the water. It transmits through WiFi the same high quality sonar information to your smartphone or tablet.
 
If you fish from your boat or from shore this is a cost effective way to get sonar and fish finding information on your iOS or Android device. I found it for $115.00 on Amazon.com.
 


Vexilar also offers the T-BOX (SP200).  This is a unit that can be more permanently mounted on your boat.  This is the unit that I am most excited about. If you own a small boat or sailboat and don't want to invest is a chart plotter costing thousands you can have a fully functioning sonar system for only $149.00. Vexilar has made it that cost effective to add depth and sonar to your boat.
 


The T-BOX (SP300) is similar unit but is a mobile version that can be temporarily mounted on your boat or used for ice fishing. It has its own battery and retails for $199.00.
 
The SP-200 system can be easily wired into your boats 12 volt power supply. The sensor can be transom mounted and will provide depth, sonar data and water temperature in that configuration.
 
You can also mount the transducer inside your boat on solid fiberglass hulls. The transducer will work right through your hull if it is not a cored hull. You will lose water temperature in this configuration.  
 
The SonarPhone uses WiFi technology to create a WiFi hotspot.  It turns your smart phone or tablet into a fully functional sonar system. There is no limit on the number of users, so everyone on board can have access to the sonar data. You simply open Settings on your iPhones or Tablets and select the TBox WiFi network source, enter the network password and your connected. This system is not dependent on cell coverage so it will work anywhere.
 
The SonarPhone app offers their app in 17 languages for world wide use. 
 
There is no easier way to get high quality water depth, temperature and sonar onboard your boat at a great price. Vexilar and Navionics have made it seamless and super easy to put powerful sonar data in the palm of your hand.  
 
This would be a great stocking stuffer for Christmas. Hint, Hint!
 
*****Happy Holidays Everyone*****
 
~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
Mark

Saturday, December 13, 2014

iPhone 6 Plus - Awesome Marine App Display

I have been racking my brain trying to come up with a worthy post this week.  I have been hunting high and low for a new app that would both amaze and impress you my loyal readers.  I have been somewhat distracted by getting ready for Christmas.  Christmas is just around the corner so I have been busy with preparations for that season.  The house is decorated, the tree is set up and all the lights are working.  I hope you are getting in the Christmas spirit too!

I recently upgraded my phone to the new Apple iPhone 6 Plus.  I used to have an iPhone 4s. It served me very well for the 3 years I had it. I skipped the iPhone 5 upgrade because I was not impressed with the added features and improvements made my Apple at that time.  I was getting a little big screen envy of the large phones Samsung was developing.  I had even toyed with the idea of buying an Android phone.

I ordered my phone directly from Apple and it took over 3 weeks to arrive.  I was able to back up my old phone to the iCloud so I was able to download all my apps, messages and contacts to my new phone. I sold my old phone back to Apple. They gave me $105 in Apple store credit for it which was about $30 more than some of the other third party sites.

I am totally blown away how great my marine apps are looking on the larger iPhone screen.  The 6 Plus has a 5.5 inch screen and the iPhone 6 has a 4.7 inch screen.

The shot below shows the size compared to a 7 inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 tablet.  Notice the narrower sides bars with allows the screen to fill up more of the display.



Here are a few of the stats compared to the iPhone 5.

iPhone 6 Plus Stats                                                    iPhone 5 Stats

5.5-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit widescreen Multi‑Touch display with IPS technology  4-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit widescreen Multi‑Touch display with IPS technology
1920-by-1080-pixel resolution at 401 ppi  1136-by-640-pixel resolution at 326 ppi
1300:1 contrast ratio (typical)  800:1 contrast ratio (typical)
500 cd/m2 max brightness (typical)  500 cd/m2 max brightness (typical)
Full sRGB standard  Full sRGB standard
Dual-domain pixels for wider viewing angles   
Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating on front  Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating on front
Display Zoom   
Reachability
 
The iPhone 6 has a new and improved 8 megapixel camera and a 1080P video camera. Video now includes slow motion and 120 or 240 frames per second. You can even take photos while recording video. The camera alone is reason enough to upgrade.

Here are a few of my favorite apps shown on the bigger iPhone 6 Plus screen. I am loving it! I am finding that I don't even use my iPad as much because the apps looks so great on the iPhone 6 Plus. They are easier to read even with my over 55 year old eyes.


Marine Information Display

NMEA Remote


iNavX


Navionics US

iSailor



SEAiq
 
Sea Nav

iRegatta Pro

I think the iPhone 6 Plus would be a great Christmas present for anyone, especially a sailor or boater. Be extra good this year so you end up on the "NICE List" and hopefully Santa will bring you one.  If you don't get one, there is no harm in buying one for yourself.  This could be considered required essential gear for any boating vessel. You can always argue that it is for safety reasons and you just had to have it to use all those great Marine Charting, Marine Data and Marine AIS apps.

*****Have a Super Holiday Season****

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
Mark

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Volvo Ocean Team Vestas Runs Aground

The Volvo Ocean Race management announced last night that the sailboat Team Vestas had run aground on a small reef north of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. The vessel grounded on the Saint Brandon(Cargados Carajos) archipelago which is comprised of a number sand banks, reefs and shoals.  The reef measures more than 50 km from north to south and is 5 km wide. Saint Brandon is located in the India Ocean about 430 km northeast of Mauritius.


Image from the Volvo Life at the Extreme App
The yacht was racing along with the other six Volvo Ocean 65 foot sailboats in the second leg of the round the world race. The second leg started in Cape Town South Africa and will end in Abu Dhabi.

Race officials were notified on Saturday evening that Team Vestas had run aground.  Several other yachts ahead of Vestas had passed the reef on the west side just a few hours ahead of them. Team SCA passed to the east of the reef later that night without incident. Vestas is the blue boat shown in the image above.  This is an image from the tracker section of the  Volvo Ocean Race app available for iPhone and iPad.

Later reports from the Volvo Ocean command center reported the yacht was aground and both rudders were broken off.  A leak in the stern of the yacht was allowing water to enter the aft watertight bulkhead area. .

Team Alvimedica was placed in standby and was asked to provide assistance to the Vestas team during the night if needed.  All nine crew members were accounted for and no injuries were reported aboard Vestas. Alvimedica motored within a few miles of Vestas just behind the reef to the west of the grounded vessel.  They remained on the scene until Coast Guard and rescue personnel arrived just before dawn on Sunday morning.  All Vestas crew members were transferred to rescue vessels shortly there after.

Race officials reported that the Vestas crew will stay in a facility on Ile du Sud until arrangement can be made to extract the crew.  Plans then can be made on how to salvage the multi million dollar yacht.
   
Team Alvimedica was released after the rescue personnel arrived and have rejoined the race to Abu Dhabi.  They will be compensated for the time they lost while they remained in standby aiding Vestas.
Image from Google Earth

Wow! the first thing that came to my mind was, how could this happen?  These yachts have the best state of the art equipment and the most highly trained crews in the world.  I cannot conceive how a yacht of this caliber could ever run aground in the middle of the ocean.  I guess we should not be so quick to judge until we have all the facts.

This is the first time the Volvo Ocean race has sailed to Abu Dahbi. Concerns of pirates on the east coast of Africa forced the race officials to ship the yachts to Abu Dhabi the last time the race was held three years ago.  So sailing in these unfamiliar waters may have been a contributing factor.

I am sure there will be a million articles attempting to figure out how this happened. Was it human error, was it bad electronic charts, who is to blame?  It is no doubt a huge oversight by someone.  My heart goes out to the sailors onboard.

The Google Earth screen shot above clearly shows the sliver of an island and the reef north of Mauritius. This appears to be the area where Vestas ran aground when you compare it to the Volvo Ocean Race Tracking position.

The image on the left is a close up Google Earth image of the Saint Brandon reef.  This low laying reef is a sunken atoll which is at times partly under water during high tide.

I do not own any charts for this area and I do not know what type of charting systems these boats had on board.  Apparently they were not adequate enough to keep the boat out of trouble. Perhaps an app like the Active Captain Companion would have alerted the navigator to the approaching hazard and shoals and prevented this tragedy. Would the Navionics Boating App Auto Routing feature factored in the shallow area and guided the boat safely around the shoals.  Having an app with view of satellite imagery would in this case made it obvious shoals were ahead. If the navigator was using a crowd sourcing app that had this spot listed as a hazard they might have been alerted to the problem.  I am impressed with the way mobile apps have continued to add features that address safety and security in real time navigation.  Maybe it is time for the Big Chart Plotter companies to rethink their approach.

This incident should be a lesson to us all.  Make sure you know the waters that you are boating in.  Check all sources of information including paper charts, electronic charts, satellite images and local knowledge. Don't rely on one set of information.

If I was racing in a multi million dollar yacht at 20 knots I would want to use all the tool available to me. There was apparently a serious lapse in judgement by someone.  The other 6 yachts were either aware of the shoal or just lucky to avoid it.  The crew of Vestas is fortunate in that no one was hurt and the boat can possibly be towed off the reef. There are probably a few bruised egos on Vestas following this incident. I am sure they will all be back racing again after learning this important lesson. 

What do you think happened?

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)

Mark


Saturday, November 22, 2014

FLIR ONE for iPhone 5/5s

Application: iPhone 5/5S
Function: Thermal Imaging camera
Rating: *****
Cost: App is free, FLIR One camera $349


The FLIR company provides state of the art night vision and thermal imaging cameras for law enforcement, maritime first responders,  commercial and personal use. Their marine thermal imaging cameras have been featured in all the boating magazines. 

Many of the megayachts now come with night vision and thermal imaging cameras as standard equipment. Some of these marine commercial cameras can run as high as $20,000.

If your not a mega yacht owner you can still have access to this technology. FLIR also produces hand held night vision units from or $2000 to $8000.

The company's latest development, the FLIR ONE, now makes this technology available to an average boater. The FLIR ONE is a thermal imaging camera attachment for the iPhone 5 or 5s. At $349 it is a low cost alternative to the other more expensive cameras in the FLIR product line.  The infra red camera is housed in a sleek sleeve that the iPhone slides into. It looks much like an external battery charging case. The sleeve houses the thermal imaging camera and a normal camera for enhancing the image.

Features:
  • Live thermal imaging/night vision display
  • iPhone 5/5s compatible
  • Camera sleeve with battery
  • Load images and videos to camera roll
  • Upload images and video to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
  • Separate battery for with 2 hours of continuous use
  • Mini USB charging
  • See what the naked eye cannot
  • Detects temperature differences of about one-tenth of a Fahrenheit degree, and the temperature readout is accurate to within 2 degrees.
  • Observe heat sources, heat differences, fire, overheating equipment or components
  • See through smoke and haze
  • Detect insulation leaks and energy efficiency problems.
The FLIR ONE app is the interface to managing the camera settings and images taken by the device. Start by attaching your iPhone 5 or 5s to the FLIR ONE sleeve.  Move the switch to the middle position to turn on the device.

You can now see live thermal images on your phone's screen. The FLIR ONE uses MSX technology which utilizes two cameras. One camera picks up the thermal imaging and the other picks up a visual image. The two images are combined to create a unique viewable image.

The FLIR ONE thermal imaging can be used for a variety of applications around your home or on your boat. The thermal imaging also provides night vision and could help you to locate objects in the water or other vessels ahead during the night.  If you have a man overboard situation on a pitch black night you may never find that person.  Thermal imaging could help to locate that person by viewing their heat signature on the device.

Use it in the engine room to take a quick scan of your batteries and wiring connections to locate hot spots before they cause a failure or fire on your yacht.


The Settings page allows adjustments for Emissivity, location, photos and temperature units.

Images and video can be taken using the on screen buttons similar to taking photos and video with the iPhone camera app.

The app makes it easy to collect and share your interesting and useful thermal images. Images and video are easily captured and can be saved directly to the Camera Roll on your device. Images can also be share on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels.

The images and video show temperature differences by the variations in color. The darker parts of the image a cooler and the brighter parts of the image are hotter in temperature.


I could see occasionally using it around the home or boat. I am not so sure I would fork out $349 for the device. Although Christmas is coming, so if you have that hard to buy for Gadget Geek this might be just what he would love!

Having the device on the phone would make it very handy to use. I might be surprised how much I would use it if I carried it around everyday.

Is anyone using this device? I would be interested in any feedback from actual users.

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
Mark