Friday 16 January 2009

Ventriloquism for Dummies

In light of the recent UK driving rules, where almost anything you do when behind the wheel of a car could be interpreted as "not being in proper control of the vehicle", you are at risk of a £60 fine and 3 points on your license if you are not 100% concentrating on the road.

Singing in your Car could cost you 3 points on your license

The new book, "Ventriloquism for Dummies" from Crackpot Press, will teach you techniques to evade capture, enabling you to sing along to your favourite tunes without anyone seeing your lips move.

Ventriloquism is 100% legal, and could save you from unnecessary expense

Mr Jones from Derby said: "What a complete load of rubbish, I bought Ventriloquism for Dummies, and didn't learn a thing"

When you buy Ventriloquism for Dummies, for a limited time only, you will also receive a sing-along CD, normally retailing at £180, with all of your favourite tunes, such as:

  • Night Fever - The Gee Gees
  • Dancing Queen - AGGA
  • Garcelona - Nonserrat Cagalle and Feddy Nercury
  • You Nake Lugging Gun - Fleetwood Nack
Ventriloquism for Dummies is not available in the shops, and this special offer is only available for a limited time.

Not only do you get a free sing-along CD, but you will also receive a roll of masking tape to put over your mouth whilst you practice - absolutely free.

"I got arrested for reading Ventriloquism for Dummies whilst on my way to work, what a waste of money." - Mrs Abbot, Gwent.

With Ventriloquism for Dummies, the free CDROM and Masking Tape, you will also receive a wire coat hanger, retailing in the shops at £52, but for you, it is absolutely free. You can wear this in the back of your jacket to prevent you from bopping around to the music in your car, and attracting attention.

Ventriloquism for Dummies has been written by Brother Robert, a Trappist Monk, and an expert in not moving his lips. His experience will guarantee your success.

Remember that this is not available in the shops. This fabulous collection also comes with a de-muffler exhaust loudener, worth £1021, to prevent anyone hearing the loud music going on in your car.

This fabulous collection, includes:
  • Ventriloquism for Dummies
  • Sing along CDROM
  • Mouth Tape
  • Posture Adjuster
  • Exhaust Loudener
And can be yours for a fantastic £299.99

Order now, terms and conditions apply.

Saturday 10 January 2009

Navman S80 Deluxe - Review

I briefly had a Navman S80 Deluxe (S80D) GPS, which I bought from Halfords in the new year sales.

Picture of Navman S80 GPS


Note: The S80 and S80D are not the same model, nor is the Deluxe an enhanced version of the S80.

2/10 - Lots of good features, however they are let down by poor documentation, software, voice and traffic capability - nice wallet though.

First Impressions

I got the bundle from Halfords. The bundle contained the Navman unit itself, a CDROM a tome of a license agreement, a windscreen mount and power cable, a TMC traffic cable, a USB cable and a case.

Look and Feel

The device iself is made of plastic (as most are), with a clean symmetrical shape, but with quite a tacky feel. Although the box said it came with a bag, it actually came with a really nice leather wallet with a magnetic latch.
The screen mount adaptor connects well to the screen, and the GPS needs to align with a platic fin, which it slides down before connecting at the base. The power cable has a large 12V plug at the other end.

User Interface

The device uses a touch screen user interface, but the layout can be quite difficult to use, particularly as a passenger using the GPS on the move - the buttons to toggle between 2D and 3D, or the button you need to press to get to the Navigate screen are smaller than a 1p coin

The device enables you to select your destination by postcode or by address. The database seems quite complete, and a voice speaks the letters as you press them.

When on the road, a small button on the screen enables the display to toggle between 2D, 3D, Route, Traffic and Step-by-step. The 3D route orients itself to the direction of travel, whereas it is possible to force the 2D view to orient itself due north.

I had some cases when I toggled through these views, when it came back to the 3D view, and the screen no longer scrolled with you in the centre, and you slowly drove off the edge of the screen. Switching the device off and on, and re-entering your destination seemed to fix this.

When approaching roundabouts, there is a large image in the top left of the screen, showing you a clear and precise picture of the roundabout, showing you your exit. When driving along the road, there is an exact image of the next junction at the bottom left of the screen.

The screen can also display Time / Distance to go, Time / Distance to next junction, Estimated time of arrival. The ETA seemed quite accurate.

Map Quality

I used the device with the 2007 maps - it came with a free upgrade to the 2009 ones, and I registered and sent off the email, but the automated system never sent back a confirmation. The 2009 maps are due for release some time in the middle of the year.

Having said that, the map I used seemed quite accurate, for example, I never came to a roundabout where the GPS though that there were more or fewer junctions that in reality (a failing of many GPSs).

There is a patch between the A1 and Cambridge which is shown as hatched on the map - I have no idea what this is, but it did have difficulty calculating a route when in this area, telling me to get to a road, when I was blatently driving down one.

GPS and Navigation Hardware

The S80 GPS has its moments. If you switch the device off with a short soft-off press on the power switch, it locks on pretty quickly after being turned back on. If it has been re-started from scratch, it takes a while to lock on, and invariably asks you if you are indoors 4 minutes after leaving your house.

The S80 comes with a TMC traffic cable - I never actually got this to work. The documentation tells you that the speaker connector is a speaker/traffic connector, but if you plug the cable in there, not only does the traffic system never detect a signal, but the speaker no longer works. The S80 also comes with a separate base unit, which takes the charger cable. There is also another jack socket with an image of a microphone on it - the TMC system doesn't work if you use this socket either. In fact, there are 3 sockets to choose from, and none of them allowed me to get a TMC data lock in 2 weeks.

Bluetooth and Phone Interface

The S80 can connect to a phone and also a bluetooth headset. The phone interface allows you to use it as a hands free system, however, if it did enable you to use the phone's voice dialling, I never found out how.

I could not send VCard entries across from my Nokia mobile phone, and couldn't work out how to make use of the address book. These features together made the hands-free features pretty useless to me.

Documentation and Software

The documentation for the S80 left much to be desired - there is a quick-start guide, which tells you to plug the TMC cable into the wrong hole (I presume), and the biggest document you get is a license agreement.

This is because, under the bonnet, the GPS is running a Microsoft operating system - how do I know this (well, I didn't read the license agreement) - when I tried to perform a firmware update patch, I downloaded a 34Mb file, and after seeing some Microsoft error messages on the device's screen, the update eventually gave up - I never did manage to install Service Pack 1.


The device has a PIN capability, so that you can protect your details in the GPS. This is a great idea, but as with many of the other features, leaves a little to be desired.

The PIN must be set by connecting the device to a PC - hopefully this means that if the device is stolen, nobody can get the details out of it. Unfortunately, I soft-started the device several times, and it did not ask me to enter the PIN before working. An intermittant PIN is of no use to anyone.

Text to Speech

The device does not say anything on the box about Text to Speech, however, if you do a search on the internet (navman Website) for the S80, you will see examples showing it saying "Turn Left into Wallace Drive" etc. I never heard any of this. checking the documentation, and it does not say that it supports Text to Speech, so I checked the Halfords website, and there is a question to which the Halford response is "Yes this does have TTS - we will update our documentation / website".

Well, I took the device back to Halfords because of the non-functional Text to Speech, and non-functional TMC traffic. They first told me that it wasn't supported, and after looking at the website and phoning head office, told me that it should be, but I needed to install the 'Kate' voice, which neither they nor I could find on the CDROM.

Good Features
  • Very good maps
  • Clear images when navigating roundabouts
  • Nice leather wallet
Desired Improvements
  • Improved documentation
  • A TMC system that works
  • Text to Speech
  • A PIN number that works all the time
  • VCard Support / Nokia E90 interfacing
I ended up asking for a refund, and I went on to buy a Tom Tom Go Live 540, which Ive now had (and am keeping!!!) for a month - review coming soon.


The Navman S80 is no longer stocked by Halfords.

The Navman website states that the GPS comes with Tele Atlas map data 2007.4, but I suspect a free upgrade to the latest map would still be on the cards. If you do find a retailer, it may be worth checking this out.

Saturday 3 January 2009

ICamView Pro Server and Cameras - Review

I've just bought an ICamView Pro Server, and installed it into my Garage.


9/10 - Multi-featured, robust, powerful little device. For my specific application, the device has a few little quirks, but these can all be worked around, and for £34, this is a must-have.

First Impressions

The server itself is very small and light (about the size of a couple of matchboxes), and was extremely easy to set up ... I just plugged it into the network, and it got an IP address from my modem/router, which it displayed on its LCD display - I plugged in the two cameras I had also bought (CM-51 1280x1024 camera and CM-09 - 640x480 infra-red camera), and they could be viewed via the web front end.

Reviewed Version

This review is for the ICamView Pro server (HCV91), running Firmware 3.3.CV91.8C02 (December 2008).

Setting Passwords

When I connected to the server, there were no password accounts set. The manual told me that if I forget my password and cannot get in, there is a username / password written on the device itself - the username and password are, indeed, written on the box, but it is not clear if they are 'inside' the device, so I've added the account manually.

I want to make the camera available over the internet for viewing stills, so I have created a 'camview' account with no password, and viewing-only permissions.

Configuring The Server

The cameras have loads of features for security applications, such as email or upload images to and FTP server on a specific schedule, or when motion is detected. The server supports automatic registration via dyndns so that it can be found over the internet, and plenty of other features such as a wi-fi dongle configuration.

Scheduled Uploading and Motion Detection

I've not tried the automatic emailing, but the FTP uploading works fine. Files are automatically named in sequence, with a numbering scheme that you choose - it should be noted that on reset, the numbering scheme reverts back to the start, so you can't use this system to record hourly / daily snapshots and keep them forever. The option to name files with the time and date would be a nice feature to add.

Motion detection works fine in a small room, but it is not sensitive enough to detect small animals in a garden, so using it to get snapshots of rare birds is not really an option. There is the option to connect an external PIR to the RS232 port, which may help provide the coverage needed.

Wifi Connection

I pulled a wi-fi dongle from a Reciva internet radio, and it connected and worked fine. Setup was very easy, and the link was quite robust. When I moved the server to my Garage, where the connection is borderline at the best of times, the server kept automatically re-trying to recover the connection whenever it dropped. The connection uses WEP, and it didn't look like WPA was available.

Confguring the Cameras

The cameras are equally easy to configure. The server automatically detects the cameras' capabilities and offers the relevant options (such as resolutions).

The server allows you to configure the rotation the images, to support situations where the cameras are not mounted the usual way up. These rotation options are used to instruct the viewer's Java or ActiveX viewing application to perform image rotation corrections - rotation options do not work when capturing stills (see below).

The options available are:

OptionOverviewAffects VideoAffects Stills
Image SizeAllows image size to be selected - Only camera capable modes are displayed, from 160*120 up to 1280*1024YesYes
BrightnessEnables the camera 'brightness' to be turned up or down
Anti-FlickerEnables the camera to compensate for 50Hz, 60Hz or No (outdoor) flicker
Max Number of Connections
Restricts the maximum number of simultaneous network connections
LocationDescrption of the camera's location. This is printed on the video frames.
Light Compensation
Enables the automatic gain control to support wide lighting variations.
ColorForces the camera output to be colour or black and white.
Camera PositionEnables the output video to be rotated - i.e. supports cameras being mounted upside-down.YesNo
Pan Control
Controls the pan of the camera (if appropriate), supporting legacy cameras which had a reversed pan control.
Tilt Control
As with the Pan Control, enables the tilt control to be reversed.

Accessing the Cameras

The cameras can be accessed in several ways:
  • Email and FTP (pushed), as described above.
  • Streamed (pull) with either ActiveX or Java front-end.
  • Streamed (relay) through an iMage server - this only supports ActiveX.
  • Stills access (and camera control) using a pda.cgi script on the server.
Streamed Pull

The ActiveX and Java front ends work quite well, enabling you to see the live video, and control the camera (if it is a pan and tilt one). In order to access the video using the pull method, you need to ensure that the configuration (http) port and streaming ports are both accessible through your firewall - users needs to log onto your server with a valid account before being able to view / control / administrate your server.

Streamed Relay

The relay method seems to work without you opening up the video streaming port. In this instance, you create an account and log on to an ICamView server e.g., and stream your video via there.

Stills Access

Stills access using the pda.cgi script. This one shows great promise, however, in my opinion, it is still not quite there. Still images can be accessed by connecting to the camera server's web server, and accessing a page such as:
You can also control the camera (if it is a pan and tilt one) by accessing a page such as:
This has a couple of downsides, though:
  1. In order to make the pda.cgi function available, you have to open up your firewall and enable access to the main configuration management page. I do realise that the configuration management is protected by a password, but it would be better to allow just the pda.cgi page through - this could be achieved by running 2 webservers on different ports, and one port would only support the pda.cgi script.

  2. Images are not rotated like they are in the streamed video - this is because the server relays whatever the camera is producing, and the Java or ActiveX control flips it or rotates is to the correct position. The stills need a bit of JavaScript (using the canvas feature), or we need to wait for CSS3 to arrive.
    I've made a start at this - take a look at the garden webcam, the very alpha code is graceful, and does the following: flipping, rotating, scaling titling and dating.

  3. There is no way to limit the requests per second when it comes to still images.
The latest firmware release supports direct access to the cameras with showimga.cgi and showimgb.cgi - this returns the actual jpeg image, or an ASCII string stating that the image is not available. This method prompts for the username / password in order to gain access. It may be better to always return a jpeg image so that the client can embed the result in an IMG tag.


Whilst investigating the ICamView Pro Server, I emailed the tech support guys at ICamView, and they were extremely helpful and supportive, recognising that I was a bit of a techy, and providing thorough explanations to my questions rather than yes/no answers. With this support, I was better able to understand the server's capabilities.

Features I've Not Mentioned

The server has lots of other features too, which I haven't mentioned above. These include:
  • Connection Logging
  • Event Logging
  • Manual / DHCP Network Configuration
  • Configurable HTTP and Video Ports
  • Automatic DDNS regsitration
  • PPPoE support
  • 8 Accounts with own passwords and restrictions
  • Ability to allow accounts access from specific IP address ranges
  • 23 Event types that can be individually selected for reporting
  • 3 sensitivities for motion detection
  • Motion detection and scheduled recording can be enabled during 2 timeslots
  • 1/2 second - 5 second motion detection image recording
  • User defined interval for scheduled image recording
  • Recorded images -> email, FTP or local flash drive
  • Recorded videos -> local flash drive
  • Support for email server authentication
  • Selectable time server and re-synchronisation interval
  • v1 and v2c SNMP support
Good Features.
  • Supports 2 Cameras
  • Multi-featured
  • Can connect via wireless if a wifi dongle is used
  • Quick and simple to setup
  • Cost Effective
  • Excellent Support
Desired Improvements
  • It is not possible to make just the stills available through a firewall - a separate tcp port for the pda.cgi script would be useful.
  • A script needs writing to flip / rotate the stills at the client side.
  • A timestamp option rather than a sequenced number on saved images would be great for those images you want to keep forever.
  • WPA Support.
  • Limiting the maximum throughput rate for stills images
See the Webcams here.
ICamView's websites are here & here.
ICamView FAQ is here.

Friday 2 January 2009

IR Webcam Setup

I bought CM_09 USB webcam from ICamView, and decided to put it up in my Garage to monitor my woodwork projects. The camera when installed could only get an image of the opposite wall - this is because the angle of view was insufficient.

Now the field of view 'a' is the angle which the camera can 'see' - a person's field of view is approximately 100 degrees (3D), or 120 degrees (2D), or 180 degrees (monochromatic peripheral vision). The focal length 'f' is the distance from the lens assembly to the detector, and the other element in the equation is the size of the sensor 'd'.

I can remove the current CS lens, and I can see the sensor, which measures approximately 5mm x 7mm. A standard 1/2" sensor has the dimensions: 4.8mm x 6.4mm, s it must be a 1/2" sensor that I have. Note that if you can't measure the sensor, you can always work it out with the camera supplier's data sheet - you need to know the horizontal angle of view, and the focal length of the fitted lens - put the numbers into the calculator at the bottom of the page to find the nearest sensor size.

There is a relationship between the angle of view 'a', focal length 'f' and size of the CCD 'd' - pythagoras can help here, and from school, I know that tangent is opposite over adjacent, so I can work out the missing sizes with the equations shown below.

I want a field of view 'a' of about 100 degrees, and now I know the sensor width 'd' (6.4mm), so I can work out the required focal length 'f', which is 2.68 mm.
Maplin do a 2.9mm CS lens, which works out at 95.6 degrees. The resulting image can be seen below:

The circle round the outside of the image, I believe, is due to the lens being suitable for a 1/3" sensor, not a 1/2" sensor - so I need to find a ~2.5mm CS lens suitable for a 1/2" sensor.

To make things easier, I've included a handy-dandy Javascript calculator - just 'calculate' the missing item.

Calculation CCD Size

Focal Length: mm
Diagonal Angle of View: degrees

Calculation of Horizontal Angle of View

CCD Size (& width):
Focal Length: mm
Horizontal Angle of View: degrees

Happy New Year 2009

Happy new Year for 2009. I do enjoy a good video, and would like to share with you some of my favorites.

Stop Frame Animation

I've always enjoyed stop frame animation, from Trumpton and Morph, when I was young, to Wallace an Grommit today. There are loads of great stop-frame animations on Youtube - here are a few of my favorites:

A few years ago, a Japanese student did a stop-frame video where she took a picture of herself every day for a year, then animated it into a short video. Very clever, but a bit monotonous. Olde English, a New York based comedy group did their version:

Another of my favorites has to be Tony vs Paul, produced in 2006 by Paul Cummings & Tony Fiandaca of FreePosterFilms.


Mark Barker has a fun tribute to Klaus Nomi. Mark has a very practical way of going about things. I asked him what video editing software he used to get the text in the video to move about so fluidly - he answered "None - I just write the words on a bit of paper, and wobbled the camera about a bit":

Animusic have lots of great videos, but I paticularly like Pipe Dream:

Good vs Wiivil

Nintendo had a competition to find the best video that showed off their Wii. The winner by a long way was Good vs Wiivil. It's a video which has everything - Clever concept and animation; Comedy; and even a gunfight - what more would you want in a video (look out for the blind guy right at the end!):