Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sony MHS-PM1 - a great take-anywhere camera / HD camcorder.

I recently saw Amazon selling the Sony MHS-PM1 camera cheap for around £140, and thought this might be an ideal camera to carry anywhere, for those impromptu photographic moments. So I ordered one this week (in tasteful orange), and can report it is an impressive device.

Already owning a small Lumix compact, plus an FZ18 for serious photo taking, I wanted something which could slip into a jeans pocket, and could be pulled-out quickly for immediate shooting. The Sony is good enough for this, and here are the pros and cons as I see it:

Pros:
  • Small, and lightweight.
  • Removable battery and memory card, a plus in my opinion over the rival Flip cameras.
  • Quick and easy to use. Frame your shot on the LCD screen, then either press 'photo' to take a 5 megapixel still, or 'movie' to start shooting digital video.
  • Up to 1080p video resolution.
  • Fixed focus lens, which eliminates focus hunting issues which traditional camcorders can suffer from.
Cons:
  • The glossy LCD can be difficult to see in bright sunlight.
  • The fixed focus lens can limit artistic shots, but then this camera is not designed for that kind of photography.
  • No optical zoom, and the digital zoom is quite jerky. I can live without these though.
  • Sony still sticking to their expensive Memorystick card format.
  • Plastic enclosure feels a little cheap. Had a metal case been used this would have been a hugely desirable camera.
Here are a couple of photo and video examples taken yesterday. I'm really pleased with this camera, and plan to keep it tucked in my pocket from now on. Some reviews report the low-light performance might suffer a bit, but for this price, I'm not worried. £140 for a pocket-sized, HD camcorder and digital stills camera? A bargain!


video

This video clip was shot at 1080p, and trust me when I say the quality is very good when viewed on my Bravia TV!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My perfect Android development environment.

Hi Everyone

In case you spotted my previous post, I'm dabbling right now with software development on the Android phone platform. To do this, I've set-up a dedicated development system on my Acer 4520 laptop, and below is my installation guide, in case anyone wants to do something similar.

The specification for the system is as follows:

  • Kubuntu 9.04 running KDE 4.2 (I wanted a KDE environment specifically for this system, mainly for the looks!)
  • Latest Eclipse Galileo development environment.
  • Latest Android 1.5 SDK

Here's the installation sequence I used:


Screenshot of the finished environment:


Base installation

  • Clean installation of 32 bit Kubuntu 9.04. 32 bit required for Android IDE compatibility.
  • Boot into desktop and enable wireless networking.
  • Enter the WPA password twice when prompted.
  • Just enter a blank password for the KDE Wallet.
  • KDE might crash once networking has been enabled. Reboot at this point, and network will connect when you log-in again.
  • Install all updates using System Settings -> Add & Remove software.
  • Reboot
  • Next install NVIDIA v180 driver using Hardware Drivers tool. Ignore the proprietary Atheros driver option.
  • Reboot

Packages to install

  • Using command line to install these packages in order for the Java license to be displayed correctly:
  • sudo apt-get install flashplugin-installer sun-java6-jdk
  • Verify Java version with:
  • java -version
  • javac -version

Installing Android development environment

Reference: http://developer.android.com/sdk/1.5_r3/installing.html

  • Download eclipse Galileo and Android SDK 1.5. Then install as follows:
  • tar -xvf eclipse-jee-galileo-linux-gtk.tar.gz
  • unzip android-sdk-linux_x86-1.5_r3.zip
  • sudo mv eclipse /usr/local/bin
  • sudo mv android-sdk-linux_x86-1.5_r3 /usr/local/bin
  • Then add Eclipse manually to the KDE start menu:
  • Name: Eclipse
  • Location: /usr/local/bin/eclipse/eclipse
  • Description: Java IDE
  • Icon: Search for 'Eclipse'
  • Start Eclipse, select the default workbench location, then close the Welcome tab on launch.
  • Then select Help -> Check for updates.
    Install all updates then restart Eclipse.
  • Now set-up the Android plugin in Eclipse with:
  • Help > Install new software....
  • Click Add Site...
  • Enter the Location: https://dl-ssl.google.com/android/eclipse/
  • Select the checkbox next to Developer Tools and click Install...
  • On the subsequent Install window, "Android DDMS" and "Android Development Tools" should both be checked. Click Next.
  • Read and accept the license agreement, then click Finish.
  • Restart Eclipse.
  • Now modify your Eclipse preferences to point to the Android SDK directory:
  • Select Window > Preferences... to open the Preferences panel.
  • Select Android from the left panel.
  • For the SDK Location in the main panel, click Browse... and locate /usr/local/bin/android-sdk-linux_x86-1.5_r3.
  • Click Apply, then OK.
  • Disable Google usage stats.

The Android environment is now ready to use. All that is left is to fine-tune the desktop to my preferences, and we're done.

Configure Konqueror

  • Install Adobe flash player: Having installed the flash plugin in the earlier steps, launch Konqueror and do the following:
  • Settings -> Configure Konqueror
  • Web Browsing -> Plugins
  • Plugins tab -> Scan for Plugins
  • Flash plugin should then appear in the list.
  • Hit 'OK' to confirm, then test at http://www.bbc.co.uk/
  • Settings -> Configure Konqueror
  • Set homepage as: /usr/local/bin/android-sdk-linux_x86-1.5_r3/documentation.html
  • Set Konqueror to load homepage on start-up.

KDE desktop configuration

  • Right-click workspaces -> Configure Desktops. Increase workspaces from 2 to 4.
  • System Settings -> Appearance -> Fonts. Change font DPI to 96.
  • Add the following apps to Start menu Favourites: Applications -> System -> Terminal; Development -> Eclipse
  • System Settings -> Notifications. Event Source -> KDE System Notifications. Remove sound from Logout and Login events.
  • Go into sound mixer and maximise Front and PCM sliders (or there will be no sound in Flash Player).
  • Set wallpaper.
  • Lock widgets.

Done!