Sony Handycam – travel technology

Posted by jerry on March 24th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Technology, Travel

Looking online for info about digital video cameras was frustrating. Whether Canon, Sony, JVC or Hitachi no-one seemed to be able to tell us whether these would connect easily to a mac. So this post is going to give you the info you don’t get on the web.

Sony handycam

In the end we had to take a gamble – none of the shops would fire up the cameras – even on external power supply so there was no way to verify manufacturers claims about close focus, image stabilisation – let alone compatibility with a mac G5 running Mac OS X (10.4.2). That put me off buying one duty-free as it would be difficult to return a camera if it proved autistic and refused to talk to the mac.

As luck would have it, despite their no-power-up policy and despite them having macs in the store we still bought from Dick Smith, because of all the shops we went to, theirs was the only one with a ‘change-of-mind returns policy – we could test it for two weeks and if it didn’t do what we hoped, then we could return it for a full refund.

The on we gambled on was a SONY DCRHC38E MiniDV Handycam AU$548. This camera has a Zeiss lens, 40x optical zoom, and up to 2000x digital zoom. So the optical zoom is about twice that of other cameras in its class.

Connecting up
The manual says this is a USB camera, but we bought a firewire cable and found that it fitted the DV OUT port on the camera. After shooting a short piece of video, I fired up the mac, connected the firewire cable and launched iMovie. The camera was recognised straight away and withing minutes the video was downloaded and ready to edit in iMovie. No extra software installation. Just plug and play. So ignore the USB stuff – use the firewire cable straight to the mac.

Now if they had just said so on the various camera websites we could have saved a lot of angst about whether it would connect or not.

The image quality is good, and the camera will focus close enough to show stitching in some detail. The “sport” mode provides image stabilisation, and there is a low-light night setting that uses infra-red to enhance the picture quality. There’s a heap of other settings to capture good colour for sunsets and sunrises, touch screen spot focus, deep shadow settings, and so on. Here’s a short sample showing my complete ignorance, both of video camera operation and editing in iMovie 🙂

I haven’t found any still camera settings yet – but then I bought it for its qualities as a video camera.

It’ll get a good workout in Auckland New Zealand next week, and I’ll blog a bit more about my travels as time and internet connections permit.

Anyhow, so far I’m a happy customer 🙂


Museum of Lost Interactions

Posted by jerry on March 20th, 2007 — Posted in History, Journal, New media, Technology

What a gem! Sharon came across a wonderfully quirky site dealing with pre-digital technologies that addressed the communicative and interactive needs of today. So they were technologies ‘before their time’.


The Museum of Lost Interactions showcases real devices from times past – up to 1970 – that gave people portable wireless communication with a telegraphic PDA using Morse code through to portable video players that filled a need currently occupied by the new iPods and 3G phones. The multi-track recording device for studio remixing – onto wax cylinders was quite a highlight!. It’s a fascinating site that in some cases reinforces the notion that it can take time for society to catch up with an emerging technology and find uses in daily life – or perhaps it’s the other way around? Equally, sometimes the social need is there, but the technology needed to make it a social phenomenon has yet to be developed. So this museum showcases some interesting dead-ends in the tree of technology innovation.


YouTube sound on a mac

Posted by jerry on March 16th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Technology

It worked for a while, then one day I logged in and it stopped – no sound from YouTube videos! I tried a diagnostic check with Nortons, still no sound. I tried shutting down and powering down to clear the cache. Still no sound. Well, when all else fails, read the manual. I looked up the Mac forums to see if anyone else had had the same problem with a mac running OS X (10.4). And they had. And there was a solution.

For some reason, macs seem to reset their midi audio output sample rate to 96,000.0 hertz, and that cuts off the sound fro flash movies. Interestingly, iTunes still worked okay and so did the midid player on barfly, but YouTube videos were vision only. The fix is easy.

Open the Applications folder, then the utilities folder and find an app called Audio Midi Setup and double click to open it.

Audio Midi Setup mac OSX

The audio output is on the right hand side –  and you’ll notice a small blue rectangle with a down arrow. Click there and a drop-down selection appears.

Select 44100.0 hertz

Audio Midi Setup mac OSX

And close it all up – now your YouTube videos will have sound again! Yay!!

Just thought I’d share that with you in case you’re having the same ‘issue’.


Meta tags – so 200BCE

Posted by jerry on March 13th, 2007 — Posted in History, Journal, New media, Technology

There are continuing discussions over web 2.0 – on the issue of tagging and tag clouds (all forms of meta data) – so I thought it timely to revisit an idea I first explored in 2004. The internet has come up with a range of standards in relation to information about information – meta data standards. The best known of these are the Dublin Core meta data standards But the issues that led to the Dublin core standards are not new. The Rosetta Stone (196 BC) – just 200 years after Plato, and – significantly – during the Greek administration of Egypt, revealed something really interesting – the existence of meta tags almost 2000 years before the Internet.

The two languages in three scripts on the stone revealed the difficulties of applying consistent language standards across an empire. Just as Web pages today specify a language an script to be applied, so too, the Rosetta stone includes as part of the inscribed decree, the stipulation that it is to be set in hard stone, in the three scripts: heiroglyphic, demotic and Greek.

What we have in fact is a meta data standard that specified the platform (a stele of hard stone); the language versions; the authority of the specification, (Ptolemy V); and its URL (each of the first, second and third rank temples). In web language these would look like this in the head part of the cartouche:

Rosetta Stone meta tags

In other words about half of the Dublin Core meta data standards are incorporated into the Rosetta Stone. This must surely provide us with an insight into something fundamental about the nature of information, and the nature of official discourse. What is needed to establish the intelligibility and authoritativeness of a piece of text when it is removed from the body (speech) and placed into a third-party medium? This is not a new question – and goes to the heart of what it means to be part of a speech community, and indeed part of the virtual community of human culture whether online or face-to-face.


Plato and new media

Posted by jerry on March 8th, 2007 — Posted in History, Journal, New media, Technology, Theory, Writing

Plato, one of the first new media analysts was concerned about the then new technology of writing. And he understood the potential (and actual) pitfalls of this new operating system. The same has been true of all subsequent new technologies. Always there remains the need for a meta-helper – one who understands the new technology to help later adopters make full use of the new technology.

This wonderful skit on medieval helpdesk support to a new user switching from scrolls to folio books is truly one of the internet video classics!


There is a wonderful parable here that speaks to one of Plato’s greatest concerns with writing over face-to-face communication. And that is that when something is written you can no longer query it or interrogate it – a bit like the user manual in the video here.

Plato, writing between 411 and 406 BC in the Phaedrus noted five key concerns with new information technology:

  • Education will suffer because it presents information rather than promoting thought
  • Information security will be compromised
  • Authorship will be difficult to authenticate;
  • It will be nothing more than a shallow distraction, devoid of serious purpose; and
  • people will stop interacting with real people.

Quite prescient really when you consider the many criticisms of the internet and with web 2.0. His objections were raised almost 2500 years ago, but remain true today, and form the basis for the key themes of almost any information technology seminar whether about censorship or eLaw or online banking or copyright.

In popular discourse, the internet is often presented as a dangerous and anarchic space. At the heart of the arguments against the internet lies the issue of authenticity.

The point is that virtual communities, like SecondLife, are real communities that exist in a virtual space. But people are still talking to people, albeit mediated by computers. It is no different from peopletalking on telephones, excpt that the interface is different.

In addition, the real/virtual distinction breaks down because human idiscourse is already mediated through language and social conventions – we can no longer harken back nostalgically to a ‘state of nature’.

There’s a lot more about this in chapter 9 of my book Virtual States, but there are elements here that will form the basis for my next book – more on that later.

Thanks to Angela Thomas for the YouTube link (though I haven’t yet figured out how to embed it properly into my self-hosted WordPress blog) *sigh*.