Cat Cam Upgrade

I spent some time and figured out how to stream video from my Raspberry Pi to Ustream.

So, starting now, the Cat Cam has actual video instead of stills that get reloaded in the background. It’s a slow frame rate, but FAR better than the previous configuration.

Yay technology!

Apr 25th, 2014 | Filed under IT, Nerd, Site News, Video

Cat Cam Setup & Info

I wanted to talk a bit about the webcam that I set up, since it’s far from typical.

These days, I imagine most people experience webcams through cameras physically installed into the computer, monitor or phone they’re sitting in front of (if you can consider a phone camera a “webcam”). I’ve owned a few external USB webcams in years gone by, but today I just have built-ins like most people.

So, when Corinne brought home some kittens to foster and a friend suggested I set up a webcam (because who doesn’t want to look at adorable kittens all day long?), I thought it was a good idea but wasn’t sure how I’d accomplish it.

Turns out, I have a very capable tool for the job: a Raspberry Pi.

If you’re unfamiliar with what a Raspberry Pi is, the short version is that it’s a small-but-powerful computer that’s about the size of a credit card. You can power it via a USB port or external power supply and you can attach all manner of peripherals to it via either standard USB cables or a few other ports.

What you see below is a picture of my Raspberry Pi in a third party case with the official camera module attached to a small servo product called Pi-Pan. Pi-Pan lets me programmatically change the pan and tilt of the camera from the Pi directly (which is really cool!). The “crazy wires all over the place” look is connecting the Pi-Pan servos to the Raspberry Pi. The white ribbon cable connects the camera itself to the Raspberry Pi.

Raspberry Pi + Camera Module + Pi-Pan

After deciding that I was going to use this as a webcam, I needed to decide the best way to implement it. Since the Raspberry Pi runs a version of linux, I have a lot of options. I figured the easiest way would just be to write a short python script to:

  • set the Pi-Pan to the correct pan and tilt
  • take a picture with the camera
  • FTP the picture to the webserver
  • tweak the files so that the new image shows up to viewers

As far as programming goes, it’s very basic. It doesn’t have much (if any) error handling and doesn’t have much optimization. There’s a lot that can be done to make the script faster and be more error resistant. It just requires time that I don’t have right now.

Another nice thing about the Raspberry Pi is that I can just pop a small USB wifi adapter into one of the open USB ports and that’s all that’s needed to get it online. It’s currently running in the other room and I have a console open with the output of the webcam script scrolling past the screen.

If you’re looking for a really small and rather cheap development platform that has a lot of versatility and doesn’t require an advanced computer science or engineering degree to get started with, I highly recommend the Raspberry Pi. There are a ton of third party attachments, modules and peripherals that you can get.

Apr 25th, 2014 | Filed under IT, Nerd, Programming

New Cat Cam!

Corinne brought home some foster kittens and I set up a webcam with my Raspberry Pi to keep an eye on them.

Click the link at the top of the page or click the image below:

Apr 25th, 2014 | Filed under Random

Let’s Get Wet!

I just got back from a 2 week trip to Boston for work (and PAX East). Just prior to departing, we went on a boat dive to Molokini Crater. It’s still whale season for another month or so and our dive was constantly serenaded by the sound of male humpback whales.

While diving, you always hope that you can encounter one of these enormous animals underwater, but it’s typically not that common (even in a place like Maui, that has a lot of whales around this time of year). Despite the odds being against us, we were extremely fortunate:

I had the GoPro mounted on top of my camera and was able to capture some video of it as well:

Here’s the description I posted on YouTube:

At the end of a dive at Molokini Crater, we were alerted to “some whales being around” by our captain. We we kept our heads down and continued to hope that we could be lucky enough to spot them.
 
Eventually, they came into view – a mother and a calf.
 
The calf was swimming about its mother and eventually came up for a breath. I know how large humpback whales are, but I didn’t actually appreciate it until the moment where you see mom come into frame. There was a rather overwhelming urge to back away once I could see just how large she was because, seriously, these things are HUGE. It’s one thing to know how large they are, but another to experience it yourself in very close proximity. The video makes it appear that they’re further away from us than they really are.
 
As if we needed another surprise, there was a male escort slowing following the pair, which you see slowly cruise directly underneath us at the end of the clip.
 
You always hope to have an encounter like this while diving, but you never think that you’re lucky enough to experience it. Today, we were that lucky.
 
This was shot w/ a GoPro Hero3 with a red filter from polarprofilters.com on it. This is why the sky is all red when I bring the camera out of the water. Had I not been completely overwhelmed with the moment, I would have remembered that and not tried to get a shot of the whales breathing because the color is all messed up.
 
I decided to leave the audio completely unchanged. All the whale songs you hear are what we were actually hearing (the whales you saw were not the ones singing) and the “machine gun” sound is the camera that the GoPro was mounted on top of.

I think it sums up the moment as best as I can. It’s still very difficult to put into words.

There’s a few more shots from the trip that were uploaded to the Underwater Gallery that are worth checking out… but little compares to a 50′ long mother humpback whale.

Apr 4th, 2013 | Filed under Random

Manta At Honolua Bay

We had a sunrise whale watch yesterday that was pretty amazing. I didn’t bring my camera gear with me because the plan was to head up to Honolua Bay to snorkel afterwards (which meant leaving thousands of dollars in photo equipment in the car – which I’d rather not risk). Instead, I just brought my not-awesome set of underwater photo gear with me.

Due to a lot of recent rain, the top 2-3 feet was really murky. There was also a really crazy thermocline that kept the top really chilly. The entrance was also particularly frigid. After toughing that out, we were rewarded by getting to see our first manta ray ever:

There’s a few more shots of this guy in the Underwater Gallery.

Also had the opportunity to shoot a turtle getting some cleaning

and a moray protecting his home

As far as brief snorkel trips go, this one was top notch!

Feb 8th, 2013 | Filed under Hawaii, Photography

20130131 Whale Watch

I wanted to quickly post some pics from our whale watch last Thursday.

The first is a shot of a whale breaching. He did this a few times for us and I managed to get a few nice shots. You can see Molokini Crater in the background.

You can see a couple more shots from the same whale watch in the fauna gallery.

The next is a shot of the west Maui mountains. It was just before sunset and we had about a week of really gloomy and rainy weather. While the grass loves the rain, it usually makes for some bad photo opportunities. I think the clouds add some character here.

Feb 2nd, 2013 | Filed under Hawaii, Photography

The Great RSS Migration

I’m getting ready to get a new iMac. This will be an upgrade to my “primary host” which is currently an older Macbook Pro (though not so old as to not be an aluminum unibody). I expect that the laptop could die virtually any day and I’m trying to be prepared.

My normal routine is to bring the laptop into the livingroom with me and work off of that. The main thing that locks me onto the laptop is my RSS feeds.

A long time ago, I started using OS X’s Mail.app to manage my RSS feeds. It made a lot of sense to keep it in the same place that I receive my mail. The biggest problem with this solution is that Mail doesn’t sync the feeds to anything. And since I follow 50 separate feeds, having two out-of-sync clients is a horrible idea. If I’m going to use a fairly unmovable iMac, then I want to utilize my iPad when I’m not in my office. It’ll also be a huge benefit when I’m traveling, as I prob won’t have a laptop to bring with me and an iPad is a great laptop replacement for travel.

So there are two issues to overcome:

  1. I need to find an RSS client that can sync across multiple clients
  2. I need a way to export my current feeds into that new client

Problem 1 was solved with Google Reader. It works great in a browser and on the iPad. Everything stays synced when you view items on different machines. It’s really awesome.

The second took some digging, but I finally came across this post which provides a tool to export your Mail RSS feeds into a format that Google Reader can import. It didn’t work as-written for me because the path it expected was slightly wrong. It also didn’t get feeds that were in folders, which I worked around by copying them into the root folder. It wouldn’t be difficult to build out the script to be more robust, but it’s really not necessary.

Making a quick code patch took only a few mins and, once done, I was good to go.

After a day on Reader, I’m both impressed and very satisfied. Definitely makes the transition to heavier iPad reliance easier.

Jan 19th, 2013 | Filed under IT, Nerd

Toads & Turtles, Turtles & Toads

Just wanted to share some photos from yesterday.

The first is a shot from Ho’okipa around sunset where turtles occasionally haul out for some relaxation in the evening hours. Presumably, it’s also a great way to avoid predators since, last I checked, sharks can’t breath air.

The next set are some cane toads from Haiku.

These guys are a rather horrible invasive species. Native species and pets simply don’t know to avoid them and the toads secrete a really nasty toxin that can kill animals that don’t know better. I managed to snap a few good shots despite it being pitch black when these guys stood still long enough for me to frame them up.

Jan 13th, 2013 | Filed under Hawaii, Photography

I own these!

Last weekend, Profiles in History hosted an online auction with a large set (500 separate lots) of original animation art from the Marvel Animated Series broadcast on Fox in the 1990′s. The most popular show in the block, by far, was X-Men.

As a huge fan and a consummate geek, I knew I needed to obtain part of this history.

I’m happy to report that I now own the following cels + backgrounds:

Some of these, such as the Phoenix landing sequence comprise of multiple cels on the same background. Also feel free to enjoy my reflection in some of them as I took photos with my phone.

A few of the lots also came with some original concept art, which I need to figure out exactly what I want to do with. I’m thinking I may want to have some scenes framed where the background and cel is next to (probably in a vertical orientation) the drawing.

Once I get that sorted out, I’ll need to find a good framer and hold my breath for a quote.

Either way, I’m extremely excited and very happy that I now own these pieces of geek and animation history.

Dec 8th, 2012 | Filed under Comics, Nerd

Huh… 5 months…

I’m getting worse at updating this site. For that, I’m sorry.
I’ll try to do better.

Oct 20th, 2012 | Filed under Random