Review: MGCool Explorer Pro 4k Action Camera

About a month ago I was contacted by MGCool and invited to do a review of their Explorer Pro 4k, an action camera similar in size to the popular GoPro series of cameras.  I received a courtesy unit a few days later and have been giving it a good workout for the past several weeks.  Now it is time to share my thoughts and observations.

What comes in the box

The camera comes packaged in a nice waterproof case that allows access to all of the controls when the camera is enclosed. Also in the package are several accessories. These include a USB charging/transfer cable, a camera bracket and clip, a bicycle mount, two adhesive mounts (helmet, dash, etc), one 90 degree directional change adapter,  and a user manual. A big surprise was the fact that it came with a second battery, something I would not expect from a low-cost action camera – or any camera, for that matter.  What it does not include is a class 10 micro SDHC memory card that will be necessary to use the camera.  I already had one of these from another action camera, so I was set to go.

Features

The Explorer Pro 4k is equipped with a 170 degree wide-angle lens, and somehow manages to only display a very slight amount of fish-eye.  This is quite impressive, considering that my more expensive Xioami Yi has a narrower 155 degree lens and has a much more pronounced fish-eye effect unless I enable the lens rectification feature.  Also unlike my Xioami Yi, this camera has a two inch screen on the back of the camera, which serves not only as a viewfinder, but also allows you to navigate and change a wide variety of settings. There are number of different resolutions and frame rates to choose from.  You can also configure the camera for “driving mode”, which starts recording automatically when it receives power and shuts down when the power is lost. This, along with the auto-loop function, makes it suitable for use as a dash camera. In addition to taking standard photos and videos, it also has the ability to take slow motion shots and time-lapses. You can take slow motion shots in 720P, 120 fps (resulting video is 25% of normal speed), or 1080P, 60 fps (50% of normal speed). With time lapses, you can set it to capture a frame at intervals of anywhere from a half-second up to one minute.

All of the settings available on the camera can also be set using the mobile app, which connects to the camera using WiFi. The app also serves as a view finder if you want to control recording remotely.

Quality

You probably knew by the price of this camera that it was not going to be excellent at everything. Well, quality is probably the place where you see some difference between this camera and ones costing twice as much.  That’s not to say the quality is bad.  Considering the cost of the camera, there is little to complain about. Under optimal lighting, the quality is very good.  When you start to introduce challenges such as poor lighting or a lot of light variation (bright and dark areas), the quality suffers a bit.  I have noticed, on rare occasion, a small about of “jello effect”, or waviness, when the camera experiences vibration and it is enclosed in the waterproof case.  This is quite common among cameras in this price range.  On the other hand, a more expensive camera without image stabilization will still be shaky, but will not have the “jello effect”, thus making it easier to do some stabilization in the post-production process.  With the white balance mode set to the default setting of auto, I also notice that some shots have a slight “blueish” color tone, at least to my eyes.  However, the camera offers an option to manually set the white balance to one of several different modes to help with this.  Also, white-balance adjustments are pretty easy to make in post-production if you need to do that.  Please review the following photographs and YouTube clips to see the quality of this camera.

https://youtu.be/Y0XcvbRMdjY – Sample video captured at 4k, 30fps
https://youtu.be/JVstYF8ThgE – Time lapse with reasonably good lighting conditions
https://youtu.be/cXNvjp1KzEM – Time lapse with bright sun coming over the horizon

 

I also will be making a full review video soon and will link it here when it is complete.

Summary

The two best words to summarize my opinion of this camera are “Great value”. If you are a professional looking for an action camera to take top-quality footage, this camera may not be the one for you. But you probably knew that when you looked at the price tag.  On the other hand, if you want an inexpensive, feature-rich action camera with everything you need to get started, this camera is a great choice.

Fixing Windows 10 “printer is in error state” when connected via parallel port

Problem:

You’ve just installed or upgraded to Windows 10, and your printer connected via parallel port refuses to work, giving an error message saying “printer is in error state”.

Solution #1:

Go to the device manager, find the parallel port and double-click it to bring up the properties sheet.  Click the “Port Settings” tab and then select “Use any interrupt assigned to the port” and click OK (see Figure 1 below).  The printer should be detected and work properly.

(Update on 09/27/2017) Solution #2 :

In some cases, solution #1 seems to work but the problem returns when the computer is rebooted.  In that case, changing the setting described above back and forth will cause it to work again, but only until the next reboot. After a significant amount of time troubleshooting this on a few computers, we’ve concluded that Windows 10 just doesn’t print reliably with parallel ports.  In stubborn cases like this, we’ve resorted to getting a StarTech USB-to-parallel cable, which essentially makes the printer look to Windows like a USB printer. In all the cases we’ve ran into, that has always solved the issue permanently. However, the brand of cable could make a difference. We used a TrippLite cable in one situation like this and it did not work, but the StarTech cable has worked every time.

Notes:

Please give us feedback if you have more insight into this issue.

Figure 1

Figure 1

How to disable registration reminder on Quicken 2003

Problem:

After installation Quicken 2003 nags you to register each time you launch it (see Figure 1), but if you click “Register Now”, it gives you an error (see Figure 2).

Solution:

While holding down the CTRL & SHIFT keys on your keyboard, select the “Online” menu and click on “One Step Update” (see Figure 3).  You’ll get a message saying “You will no longer be prompted for registration” (see Figure 4).

Notes:

This procedure probably works on other versions of Quicken.  If you’ve tried it on another versions and can verify that it works, please let us know so we can update this post.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 4

 

Microsoft Office 2007 applications print too many copies under Windows 10

Problem:

Just making a quick note about an issue I recently encountered on several computers. In each case, the effected person was using Office 2007, Windows 10, and printing to an HP printer. In each case, the issue was that anytime we printed multiple copies, the printer would actually increase or multiply that number. For example, if we printed a document and told it to print one copy, it would work correctly. If we told it to print two copies, it would print four. If we told it to print four, it would print sixteen!

I don’t know if the model of printer matters, but here are the printers I’ve had this trouble with.  There may be others as well.

  • HP Laserjet M521 MFP
  • HP Laserjet 2300

Solution:

We tried installing the latest service pack for Office 2007, installing the latest updates for Windows 10, and installing the latest printer driver for the printer. In the end, the only solution we found was to upgrade to Office 2010, which solved the problem.

We’ll update this post if we learn more about this issue. Please comment if you found this helpful or have more information for us.

The Xiaomi Yi Action Camera

I’ve been wanting to purchase an action camera for quite some time, but was always too much of a tight wad to do so. Finally last month I got my hands on a Xiaomi Yi camera. This camera is another GoPro knock-off, but is one that gets pretty good reviews, and according to most accounts, gives the best video quality for the money. Unlike the popular SJ4000 camera, the Xiaomi Yi supports 1080p video at 60fps, and it can also do 120fps and 240fps video at lower resolutions.

Here are the items I purchased:

I did a video showing the unboxing and a number of sample clips and also a video showing how to use the Xiaomi Yi (the camera doesn’t come with English instructions).

My first impression of the camera is good. The fast frame rate lets me slow down shots without them appearing jerky. I’m hoping this camera will capture some nice underwater clips of catching and releasing fish when I use it for fishing videos on my Great Cove Adventures YouTube channel.

The 808 series of key-chain spy cameras


When it comes to dirt-cheap video cameras, the 808 series of key fob cameras must be one of the most popular. A large selection of these can be found on Amazon.com These cameras are designed to look like a vehicle key fob, and they do a great job of that.   Most folks would look at them and have no idea that you have a video camera attached to your key chain.  However, for many people, spying isn’t the primary use for these camera.  They are commonly used to capture areal footage from a model plane, helicopter, or rocket.  Because these cameras are lightweight, they work well for this purpose.

There are several models of 808 key chain cameras, and the video quality and price varies widely between these models.  The model is simply a number, usually between 1 and 24.  When you buy one of these, the particular model should be specified.  If it is not, be careful!  The lower models have very low resolution and video quality.  I got one of those to use with my model rockets to get areal footage.  You can see the quality (or lack thereof) by taking a look at my rocket videos, or the video taken from my radio controlled Sky Ranger airplane.  The cost for my camera was about $12, and I knew what I was getting.   However, there are some sellers that will sell you a low quality model for $40 or $50 – a big rip-off.

If you’re looking for a higher quality camera and don’t mind a higher price take, the 808 #16 and 808 #26 cameras are some of the most popular and give you 720p and 1080p video respectively.   In addition to the 808 series, there are also some similar cameras that have become very popular.  One of those is the Mobius Action Camera, which is similar in specs to the 808 #24 camera and will probably be my next camera purchase.

Recycling & Reuse Projects


Over the past several years I’ve done several interesting recycling and reuse projects.  Below is a list of some of the more interesting items I’ve made.

 

boat600A cardboard boat

I got the idea for a cardboard boat from the many photographs and videos on the web of cardboard boat races.  But while many of those boats are designed to stay afloat for a few hundred yards, I wanted to make one that would be durable enough to last a few years.  So I took some ideas from the internet along with some ideas of my own, and made a single-person cardboard kayak. It’s been several years and it still floats.  I’ve made videos of the boat in action on Meadow Grounds Lake, the Juniata River, and the Potomac river. I wrote a blog post about the construction that includes some frequently asked questions and a video explaining the construction.  I also have a YouTube playlist that contains several videos of the boat, from construction to fishing out of it.


Solar ovens

I’ve made solar ovens out of anything from cardboard boxes to old satellite dishes. In the case of the latter, I have recorded a video of the construction.   And they can cook just about anything. Probably the easiest solar oven to make is one based on the CooKit design. I recently made a video of me cooking a whole chicken using that solar oven.  My other solar cooking videos are below:

 
 
 


completed ufoCompact Disc UFO

This little craft makes use of an old CD or DVD, a Styrofoam egg, and a couple of golf tees. This video explains the construction process, and this blog post will give you details and a materials list.

You might want to resist the urge to throw these things like a Frisbee, though, because the edges can be a little sharp. A better idea is to use fishing line to attach them to the ceiling for decoration.


 

broom-800pxSoda Bottle Broom

Like many of the others, this idea wasn’t original with me.  I found a picture of soda bottle broom on the Internet, but the instructions were vague, so I made one and recorded a video of the process as well.

 

 

Do you know of any other cool recycling projects?  If so, put your ideas on the comments below.

Inateck 13-inch Laptop/Tablet Case Giveaway

Note:  This contest has expired.  Keep watching this blog, our Facebook page, or our Youtube Channel for more opportunities to win!

We are giving away a laptop/tablet case to one lucky winner. This product is model HP1300 from Inateck. For more information on this case, click here to visit the product page on Amazon. You can also watch my video review of this product by clicking here. To enter this drawing, you must be at least 18 years old and live in the U.S. or Canada. This contest runs from the time this post appears on my blog until 5 PM on November 29, 2014.

There are two simple steps to enter this contest.

  1. Like our page on Facebook, if you have not already done so. Yes, that means you need a Facebook account to enter. Visit the page at http://www.facebook.com/BernardoTech and click the Like button.
  2.  Send me an email at bernardotech@gmail.com stating that you want to enter the Laptop Case Giveaway, and give me your name as it appears on Facebook so I can verify that you’ve Liked my page.

That’s all you have to do. I will randomly select a winner after 5 PM on November 29.  If you have won, I will reply to your email to inform you of that and will ask for a mailing address where I will send the product.

All information that you provide to us will be used only for the purposes of running this contest. Your email address will only be used to contact you if you are the winner. We won’t send you anything else, nor will we give or sell your email address to others.

Thanks, and good luck!

Rooting and disabling dialing on a Republic Wireless Motorolla Defy XT

Moto-Defy-XTI recently became the owner of a retired Motorolla Defy Xt that had been formerly used with service from Republic Wireless. My 7-year-old loves electronic devices and cameras, so I thought it would make a nice gift for him. Of course, there were a few problems: First, I needed to remove dialing capability. Even without a plan, cell phones can make emergency calls, and I didn’t want the police showing up at my door because of my son inadvertently dialing 911. Secondly, I wanted to remove some of the stock apps that my son won’t be using, like YouTube and Google plus. In the end, I wanted to have a device that allows taking pictures and listening to music, but not much else.

After some research, here are the steps I used to accomplish my objectives. Just a friendly reminder: Rooting your phone may make it inoperable! These steps worked for me but are offered without a warranty of any kind.

1. Root the Phone
To do this, simply download, install and run the Cyanide.apk application. You may need to change your security settings to allow third party apps. In my case, trying to run the APK file took me to the appropiate screen to make the change to the security settings. Once you install and run the APK, the phone will automatically reboot a couple of times, and the job is complete.

2. Install the free version of Titanium Backup
Titanium Backup is available on Google Play. It allows you to backup and uninstall existing applicatiosn on your phone. If your phone is rooted, as ours is, you can even remove stock apps that normally cannot be uninstalled.

3. Remove the Dialer and Republic Wi-Fi apps
Once Titanium Backup is loaded, launch it and tap Backup/Restore. Here you’ll see a list of installed applications. The one you want to remove is called Dialer (in my case, followed by the version number 2.3.7). So click on the dialer and click backup so you can restore it later if needed. Then click on Dialer again and click Uninstall. Once the Dialer is uninstalled, you’ll see an error message appear on the screen. Closing the error message will make it appear again and again. To stop this, hold the power button in for a few seconds and menu with the options Silent Mode, Airplane Mode, and Power Off will appear behind the nagging error message. Then acknowledge the error message one last time and quickly tap Power Off. Once the phone has rebooted, the nagging message should not come back, and you will find that you cannot make calls. You can still enter a number into the dialer interface, but trying to make the call will just display an error message. It will do this for 911 calls as well. I also uninstalled the Republic Wireless Wi-Fi Setup app as well using these same steps. The standard Android Wi-Fi settings are still available.

That’s it! Obviously, you may want to uninstall other apps as well, but this should give you the information you need to do so.

Surface Pro 3 camera test – a disappointment

I recently had my first experience using the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. Since I’m into photography and video editing, I figured the first thing I should do is check out the camera.

When I tapped the camera app, a view from the rear facing camera filled up the screen, and nothing else. No button or toolbars were visible to give me a clue how to use the app. So I tapped the screen, thinking that it might take a picture just like it would on my Moto X. Sure enough, it did. Next I tried to slide a finger up and down on the display to see if it would zoom like my Moto X does, but it didn’t. I tried using two fingers and sliding them apart to zoom, but that didn’t work either. After some more poking around, three buttons suddenly showed up along the right side of the screen. One was to take a picture, one to take a video, and one to take panoramic photograph. I’m not sure quite why a button to take a picture was included because tapping anywhere on the display appears to do the same thing. Pressing the video button started a video, so I took some test footage and pressed stop. The interface paused for a few moments, presumably to save the footage, before it allowed me to take another picture or video. After trying a few more video clips, I noticed that sometimes this pause would be non-existent, and other times it would take 30 seconds or more before it would save the video and let me proceed using the camera app. I found this rather baffling, but I assumed it was by design.

Then I looked at the footage. About two out of three clips had distortion or artifacts in the video. Some of the problems were minor, but in some cases the entire video was garbled and choppy. It seemed that the videos that took the longest to save were the ones that had the most issues.

After many attempts, I put together a camera test video, but I had to record some of the segments several times to get a usable video. As you can, even the clips I used had some distorted areas.

Has anybody else encountered these problems with the Surface Pro 3? If so, put your experience in the comments below. In the coming days I’ll be doing some more research to see if I can find more information on the issue or a way to fix it. If I can learn something, I will add it to this post at a later time.