Video capture tech has come a long way.

Back when Courtney graduated high school in 2008, I wanted to put together a DVD of home movies of her to play on a loop during her open house. Naturally, this required buying a video capture card so I could get the footage into my PC and then burn them out to a DVD.

KWORLD DVD MAKER PCI
Click to embiggen.

I ended up buying a KWORLD DVD MAKER PCI card. You put it into an open PCI slot in your computer and it had a single S-Video connector for the input. Plug your VCR into that, load up the capture software, press record in the software and play on the VHS and, in the amount of time it takes to play back the video tape, you had a video file on your machine. I don’t remember how much it cost at the time, but it probably wasn’t more than $80 to $100 and it worked reasonably well for what I wanted it for. I still have the card around here someplace, but I’ve not had a motherboard with PCI slots on it in ages.

I thought about it recently when I stumbled across the manual while digging through my boxes of computer stuff looking for something entirely unrelated. I realized that we have a number of home videos locked onto VHS that are going to end up deteriorating at some point so I should probably think about making digital copies. Mostly videos of Christmas gatherings, but also some parades mom marched in as a clown and I think a birthday or two. When my mother moved in, she brought a working VHS/DVD combo player with her so I had half of what I needed to make this a project.

So, today I went onto Amazon and started looking at video capture options and there is no shortage of products to choose from. With the rise of YouTube and gamers wanting to share videos of gameplay, there are a ton of them that don’t even need a computer to work. You just hook it up to whatever you want to capture from and pass the signal through to a display and it’ll capture the video to a microSD card in the device itself. There’s several that are full-on PCIe cards meant for industrial usage that have multiple inputs. Then there’s an absolute shit ton of USB based products.

The last option is the one I decided to go with, purchasing a “REDGO Video Audio VHS VCR USB Video Capture Card to DVD Converter Capture Card Adapter” as it’s labeled on Amazon. It should be arriving sometime tomorrow and the difference in size between the KWORLD PCI card and the REDGO USB stick is impressive.

Even more impressive? It costs $9.99. Now that could be because it does a crappy job and, admittedly, it is not the highest rated of the USB based capture cards out there. That said, it shows up on a lot of recommended lists as a second or third option behind the best.

The best one being from Elgato, maker of many of the stand-alone game capture devices as well as PCI cards. Their Elgato Video Capture will set you back $88, which was a bit more than I wanted to spend. I can justify tossing $10 and some change (after tax) at the REDGO option and if it turns out to be shitty, well, I’m only out $10 if Amazon won’t accept a return. Which they almost certainly would.

Elgato’s much more expensive, but arguably better, option.

Now I’m all set to digitize all the old home movies to my PC. With the 4TB mechanical HD I have as a data/backup drive, I should have more than enough room to save the files and then load them up in DaVinci Resolve for a try at editing them a bit.

Given that it’s been 13 years since I bought the last capture card, I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised at how the tech has advanced. Still, when I see the image of the naked board in the USB device compared to the PCI card of the old one, it still impresses me. I’ll let you guys know how good of a job it does. I’m not expecting miracles as we are talking digitizing Standard Definition VHS tapes and then playing them back on high resolution flat panels, but it’s better than losing the videos altogether.

We’ve come such a long way from ‘Pong’.

Such humble beginnings

I’m an O.G. gamer, having cut my teeth on Pong and Breakout and Space Invaders way back in the day. I can remember every major jump in graphics tech and how we thought things couldn’t possibly get any better than they were right then. I remember the brief period where it seemed Laserdisc based games were the future. I remember when CD-ROMs took over from cartridges offering up incredible — for the time — amounts of storage (Final Fantasy VII would not have been possible with cartridges). Then there was the arrival of true 3D rendering and how were they going to top that?

Crash Bandicoot.

I’ve been a Sony fan since the original PlayStation was released though I almost didn’t buy one. I moved on to gaming on computers after the console market crashed in 1985 and didn’t bother going back when Nintendo and Sega revived it a year or so later. The one exception was my purchase of a Panasonic 3DO in 1993 and that was only because ex-Amiga people were behind its development. Everyone was excited for Sony’s PlayStation arriving in America in 1995 and the word was that if you hadn’t preordered you weren’t going to be able to get one, but I didn’t bother. I happened to walk into the local Babbages the day it was released, and they had a stack of them on hand that weren’t already claimed. I bought one on a whim and have been a fan ever since.

Now the PS5 is looming on the horizon and I’m tingling with anticipation. There will be yet another improvement in graphics with its release, but the real jump in tech will be from its storage technology. The last two generations of consoles have included mechanical hard drives as their main form of storage which, much like CD-ROMs did, allowed for much more capacity as well as giving developers the ability to release updates and new content to a game. Large mechanical drives, though, are terribly slow which could make for long loading times between levels. You can alleviate some of that by putting a Solid-State Drive (SSD) in your console, but it’s not there by default so developers don’t take advantage of it.

Oh, you sexy beast!

The PS5 is including an SSD for the first time, but it’s not an ordinary SSD. It’s a variation on a newer form known as an NVMe drive which offer ridiculous transfer speeds because they bypass the normal drive bus and talk directly to the system bus. I have an NVMe drive in my gaming desktop and it is disgustingly fast. The one in the PS5 reportedly is custom designed to exceed a standard NVMe’s transfer speed and works in conjunction with a custom I/O chip to deliver uncompressed data to other system components at up to 5.5GB/sec. What that means is insanely fast load times and the ability to stream data into a game faster than ever before.

What can you do with that? One of the best examples is the upcoming Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart game:

Now it may not be immediately clear why the new custom NVMe drive in the PS5 is the most important part of the new system, so allow me to elaborate. The game has a portal mechanic like the PC game Portal in those orange things Ratchet is grappling through. No big deal, that sort of tech has been around for a while and we’ve seen stuff like it before. It’s a testament to the power of the PS5 that so much of the geometry is being rendered in the portals as you move through them, but it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before.

It’s the purple portals he falls through that show the power of the new SSD drive. When he’s falling through those, he’s going from one game level to a completely different game level with a different art style and a whole new collection of assets. The game has to load all that in which is why there is about one and a half seconds where he’s drifting “between realities” before the second portal opens and drops him in the new world. The end of the demo does this five times in relatively quick succession and it’s almost seamless. Watch it again:

This will start at the purple portal sequence.

That’s damned impressive. I’d bet most folks wouldn’t even realize it’s doing so much work in such a short period of time. I’m trying to think of any other video game that has pulled this sort of thing off and I’m coming up empty. This also means things like Fast Travel in open world games should be so brief that there’s little to no time to put up game tips. I’m currently playing through Ghost of Tsushima which has one of the shorter Fast Travel features I’ve seen in an open world game. Especially compared to a title like Red Dead Redemption II which is almost glacial in comparison. I can’t wait to see how that feature will work on games on the PS5.

Above and beyond that, though, is just the shear amount of detailed stuff that’s happening onscreen during this demo. It really is dizzying at times to look at. The previous games in this series were no slouches in terms of on-screen action, but this is just so much… more. More stuff, more detail, more effects. I’m not a huge Ratchet & Clank fan, but I’ll be picking this one up.

Everyone’s using that Russian FaceApp to see what they’d look like old and I’m just sitting here being old.

Me, circa April this year in an early morning selfie. Click to embiggen.

Have you seen all the people on Facebook posting selfies of themselves after they’ve run it through the FaceApp? It’s all the rage right now probably because the results tend to err on the very flattering side. If this app is to be believed, everyone is going to look amazing. Just a few more wrinkles and lots of grey hair. Personally, I don’t need to use that FaceApp to see what I would look like as an old person because I am already an old person.

True story: On the way into work this morning I could not for the life of me remember my age. I knew I was 50-something, but I wasn’t sure if I would be turning 52 or 53 next month on my birthday. I had to literally do the math in my head while driving at 70 MPH on the freeway because it was bugging me so much that I couldn’t recall if I am currently 51 or 52 years old. (For the record, I am currently 51 about to turn 52.) I almost went as far as to ask Google because they almost certainly know my age, but I did the math instead because I didn’t want to interrupt the song streaming on Pandora at the time. So, yeah, I’m old. Not super old. Not even eligible for senior discounts at most places yet, but old enough to have the bloodhounds at AARP on my ass about signing up. I’ve got another three years before I outlive my biological father who died at 55, but I doubt I’ll match my great grandmother who died at 99.

Speaking of that FaceApp, you might want to think twice before playing with it depending on how much you care about your image potentially being sent to Russia for a foreign company to do whatever they want with it. The folks at Slate have a good write up on how worried you should be about the app with responses from the company that makes it:

Privacy Matters and several news outlets (some in rather alarming termspointed out that when you use the app, you grant Wireless Lab a lot of rights. That includes a “perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, publicly perform and display your User Content … without compensation to you.” That basically means FaceApp can do whatever it wants with your photos, according to New York Law School professor Ari Waldman. “You retain copyrights and photos that you upload, but you grant them the opportunity to pretty much do anything they want with the photos that are stored on their servers,” Waldman told me. And in many cases, it’s not just photos of the individual using the app—people upload images of their friends and families, too, meaning such a database of faces would be massive, and that same policy would apply regardless of who is in the photo. “It’s pretty broad, to say the least,” Waldman said.

Soure: How Worried Should You Be About FaceApp? — Slate


That’s a pretty permissive and vague terms and conditions, but to be fair to Wireless Lab, that’s true of a lot of apps because it covers their ass in case someone decides to sue for some stupid reason. Still, you should be aware that you are granting them these rights when you use the app. There was also a rumor going around that it wasn’t just uploading the picture you submitted to foreign servers, but grabbing your entire camera roll. Slate asked security expert Will Strafach to take a look at the app to see if that is true:

And, according to FaceApp’s creator Yaroslav Goncharov at Wireless Lab, that data doesn’t get sent to Russia at all unless you are in Russia:

Yaroslav Goncharov, FaceApp’s creator and Wireless Lab CEO, said in an emailed statement that no user data is transferred to Russia even though “the core R&D team is located” there, and he echoed that the entire camera roll is not tapped for upload. Forbes reported that FaceApp uses Amazon servers located in the U.S. and Australia. And, to be fair, FaceApp said it deletes most photos after 48 hours: “We might store an uploaded photo in the cloud. The main reason for that is performance and traffic: we want to make sure that the user doesn’t upload the photo repeatedly for every edit operation.” But, again, all we have here is its word. When I asked Goncharov what Wireless Lab uses the photos for, he didn’t say. “Privacy policies and terms are drafted by lawyers and they always prefer to be on the safe side,” Goncharov wrote in an email. “We are planning to do some improvements here.” I directly asked if the company actively uses personal data for commercial purposes, and he didn’t respond.

So, in the end, it’s entirely possible that FaceApp is an innocuous bit of mindless fun and the folks at Wireless Lab aren’t keeping your data for very long or doing anything with it you wouldn’t want them to. However, the potential for abuse is still there in that terms of service agreement and if they changed their minds because, say, Russian intelligence needed a shit ton of pics to train a facial recognition system with, well, you’d given them the rights to do just that. Even then it’s arguable whether that would have any real impact on you in the long run outside of having helped the Russians to train an A.I., but it’s something you should consider before using the app.

Then again you should probably stop to consider these things with any app you’re thinking of using. Considering I’m all over both Google, Facebook, and this blog I doubt my using FaceApp could do much more damage to my privacy than I’ve already done to myself. I still won’t use it, though, because I already know what I’d look like when I’m old. Now, if it could remember my age for me…

April 1st is dangerous for the credulous on the Internet

It’s that day again. The day of pranks and mischief where everyone tries to pull one over on you. Tech companies in particular really seem to enjoy this day and go to extra lengths to put forth almost believable fake products.

Companies like nVidia and their new R.O.N. AI Personal Assistant for Gamers:

I could totally use one of these for the RageConverter™ technology alone. The Troll Destroyer would also be nice.

Then there’s Newegg with their announcement of their entry into hardware production with their first CPU for gamers that continues the current trend of putting RGB lighting on everything. The Newegg iBrite RGB CPU:

It’s not clear how you’re supposed to see the RGB lights once you put a heatsink on it, but the specs of this processor more than make up for it: Cores: 100 — Threads: 200 — DDR5 RAM support: Sure, probably — Base clock: 1.4 PHz — Overclock capable, but doing so might create a small black hole inside your CPU (and void your warranty).

ThinkGeek goes all out for April 1st with a number of fake products that are often things people would really want. So much so that in the past they’ve actually turned some of them into real things you can buy. This year they’re “offering” up the Burned Bread Toaster by Banksy for the low low price of $1,370,000.00, the Flame Jam Hoop for all your Boomshakalaka needs, the Captain Marvel Universal Pager for a mere 1¢ (with $9.99/month 2-year service contract), the Roomby: Kirby Robot Vacuum that’ll suck your carpets clean, the Marvel Thor Mighty Mjolnir Mailbox because your mail is worthy, a Motion-Controlled Mimic Package to stop those porch pirates, the NERF Nuke to end all those NERF gun wars once and for all, the Power Wheels Desert Drifters so your kids can live out their Mad Max dreams, and — my personal favorite — the Bean Bag Onesie for all you lazy millennials out there.

Logitech has given in to demands to rename Wireless Mice to a more appropriate mammal considering that they lack “tails.” Announce they will now be called Hamsters:

Google is excited to introduce their newest product: Google Tulip! Decoding the language of flowers has been a decades-long challenge. But that changes today. Thanks to great advancements in artificial intelligence, Google Assistant on phones and Google Home is now able to understand tulips, allowing translation between Tulipish and dozens of human languages.

If you want to try for yourself, set your Google Assistant on your phone or smart speaker to the English language and say “Talk to Tulip Translator”. Yes, they went through the trouble to add this to the Google AI. I tried it. It works. This is some serious above and beyond for the sake of a joke.

Gotta admit, the amount of work some of these companies put into their pranks is impressive and I do look forward to this each year. However, I can imagine that for some folks the day is a nightmare.

This just in: FOX News is stunned that smartphone cameras can be used to record the police.

Help me out here, the year is still 2018, right? I only ask because apparently the folks at FOX & Friends First are very alarmed by the fact that smartphones have cameras on them. Cameras that can record video clips. Cameras that can record video clips of police officers. Almost like, *GASP!*, BODY CAMERAS!

DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!

To be fair, they’re freaking out over a shortcut some dude came up with for the iPhone that makes recording an encounter with the police very easy by simply saying  “Hey Siri, I’m being pulled over.” 

Here’s why this is stupid: First, cell phones have had cameras capable of recording video since at least 2005, though video recording capabilities wouldn’t become commonplace until a few years later. The original iPhone, for example, had a 2MP camera and couldn’t record video. Still, it’s easily been doable for over a decade now. 

Second, being able to start recording a video with a voice command has been a thing since at least 2014. With my Pixel 2 in my shirt pocket all I need to say is “OK Google, record a video,” and it will launch the camera app in video mode and start recording immediately. In most of my shirt pockets the phone is just tall enough to peak over the top of the pocket. This makes it trivally easy to start a recording without making it obvious that I’m doing so. At least so long as the target is out of earshot as I have to issue the command and the phone acknowledges that it’s launching the app. Once I stop recording my phone is set to immediately back it up to my Google Photos account. The one drawback to this is that if it’s been awhile since you unlocked the phone then you may need to unlock it before it’ll start the app, but with the fingerprint reader that’s pretty easy to do.

Third, this isn’t something that can only be done on the newest iPhones as the report above suggests. It’ll work on any iPhone running iOS 12 and the Shortcuts app. It’s not even the only shortcut that’ll do this. The I Got Pulled Over shortcut is also available. 

The big innovation here is that the Police shortcut pauses music you may be playing, turns down the brightness on the iPhone, turns on “do not disturb” mode, starts recording with the front facing camera and sends out a text message to a friend letting them know where you are and that you’re recording a police encounter. Guess what? There have been apps that will do similar things for quite some time now.

On Android there’s Legal Equalizer which will text a contact of your choice, record the encounter and upload it to cloud storage, advise you of your rights and what to say, and even help find a lawyer.

Also, there is the Mobile Justice app developed in association with the ACLU which has been around since 2012. There are multiple versions of this app as each is specific to a state (here is the link for Mobile Justice: Michigan on Android and here’s the iPhone version). This app is more for activists as in addition to recording video and uploading straight to the local chapter of the ACLU, it has the ability to let you know when someone else is involved in a police encounter nearby so you can act as a witness.

That’s just two examples of dozens of apps. The point being that this isn’t anything new. So why is FOX acting like this is some shocking new affront to the police? Well, it turns out that lots of news organizations are reporting on it because the shortcut has shot up to become the third most popular one available at the moment. Business Insider did an article on it where they even show you how to make the shortcut yourself, USA Today wrote about it, Car and Driver got in on it, etc. and so on. The difference here is that FOX & Friends First decided to play it off as something bad because it’s FOX News: Propaganda Arm of the GOP since 1996.

Man literally betrayed by his own heart.

Modern technology is amazing, but every day we’re hearing about cases where someone’s electronic device ends up tying them to the crimes they’ve committed. Usually it’s cellphone location data or photos that busts someone for a crime, but in this case police arrested Ross Compton for arson because his story didn’t line up with data from his electronic heart monitor:

Middletown man’s electronic heart monitor leads to his arrest – WLWT5

Middletown police said Compton told them that he was able to pack his suitcases and throw them out his bedroom window after he broke out the glass with a walking stick.

According to court documents obtained by WLWT, a cardiologist told police that those actions were “highly improbable” because of Compton’s medical condition.

Police sought to prove that by collecting electronic data stored in Compton’s electronic heart device. They wanted to know Compton’s heart rate, pacer demand and cardiac rhythms before, during and after the fire.

Police told WLWT on Friday that it was an excellent investigative tool, and the information that was retrieved didn’t match Compton’s story.

“It was one of the key pieces of evidence that allowed us to charge him,” Lt. Jimmy Cunningham said.

It’s believed this is the first time data from an electronic heart monitor has been used in this manner. Of course, it helps that the arson inspectors say the fire was started with gasoline at multiple points around the outside of the house and it was on the clothes Compton was wearing at the time, but this is the icing on the cake.

I’m always amused by the criminals who don’t think to leave their cellphones at home when undertaking a planned crime because that’s going to be the first thing the police are going to check. Turning it off is another option, but that looks suspicious if it’s only off during the time the crime takes place. Especially if it’s during the day when you’d have it turned on.

Having a heart monitor, however, is not something you could (or probably would want to) turn off. I suppose you could start the fire and then go through the motions of what you are going to claim to have done so that the data links up, but given that it’s physically demanding you’d be putting yourself at risk of heart failure while in the middle of a burning building which doesn’t seem too smart either. Probably want to change your clothes after handling the gas too.

I dunno, seems like the smart thing to do is not to do this in the first place.

Today’s I’m-Feeling-Old Moment: Kids react to a Walkman.

I should really stop following TheFineBros‘ YouTube channel. All it ever does is remind me how old and decrepit I’ve become.

Kids these days don’t know how good they got it with their “em-pee-three” doohickeys and their smartass phones. Why in MY day we had to get up to change the damned channel on the TV and we had only three major networks and a couple of minor UHF channels to choose from!

And now here is today’s “feeling old” moment.

I’ve already shared this one on Google+ so if you’ve already seen it there I apologize for the repetition, but I know my mother would get a kick out of this so I’m sharing it here too.

I’m old enough now that snot nosed kids can make me feel old pretty easily. Especially when it comes to stuff I grew up with. Stuff like dealing with a rotary phone:

Even though touch tone phones were introduced well before I was born, it took awhile before they were ubiquitous. Growing up we mostly had touch tone phones in the house, but we had a couple of the old rotary ones around too. I don’t recall when I learned how to use one though I’m sure I had to be taught. These days I don’t even have a landline anymore. It’s just an added expense that doesn’t make much sense when I carry my cellphone with me everywhere. That doesn’t stop this video from making me feel really old.

Public Alerts on my Google Maps? YES PLEASE!

This could prove to be mindbogglingly useful for a lot of people. Not the least of them myself. #seb #Google #Neato #Technology

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Google adding Public Alerts to Maps, keeps you in the loop in times of worry
You can’t deny that Google often hands out marvelous tools for the masses to utilize (yes, some can be a miss), and today the King of Search is launching a fresh virtual apparatus as part of its Crisis Response project. Dubbed “Public Alerts,” the feature is accessible from within Google Maps, keeping you in the loop during times of high alert. Your search query will trigger things like weather relevant to your area, public safety and earthquake alerts — all of which are provided by the NOAA…

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RAM: You’ve come a long way, baby!

My gaming desktop at home has 8 Gigabytes of RAM. If I had to use these 4KB modules instead of the two 4 GB sticks I have in my system it would take 2,097,152 of them to do it. Hell, the SDHC memory card — a single card the size of a postage stamp — that I put into my new digital camera is 8 Gigabytes of room and that’s not even the most spacious such card available. SDXC cards can range from 32GB to 2 Terabytes of storage for your camera/phone/MP3 player. #seb #computing #history #technology #RAM

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This Giant Chunk of Metal Is 4 Kilobytes of Memory [Past Perfect]

What’s this gent holding? A toaster? Farm equipment? Part of an engine? Wreckage from a destroyed tank? Nope—that’s 4KB of ol’ fashioned IBM memory. That’s enough to hold 12% of my Facebook profile picture!
Editor-in-Chief of CNET Reviews Lindsey Turrentine discovered the rugged computer antique in her grandfather’s barn. Not a bad catch! Turrentine pointed out the wonderful irony that the image itself is 692 KB—meaning she’d only need to find 172 more of these memory modules and a tractor tr…

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