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.

Ubiquiti Unifi Long Range Access Point – Review

About a year ago I decided to replace my aging Linksys access point that was beginning to cause a fair amount of trouble.  One problem is that it would freeze on a weekly basis and had to be power-cycled to fix it.  Range was also an issue.  I wanted the signal to reach another building on our property that was about 200 ft away.  In order to make that happen, I had purchased a pair of range extender antennas for the unit.  This allowed internet access in the other building, but the signal was very weak and not all devices were sensitive enough to be able to connect to it.

After some searching, I decided to get a Unifi Long Range access point from Ubiquity.  Shortly after I purchased it I recorded a video showing the unboxing and setup, as well as my initial thoughts.   Now that I’ve used it for some time, it’s time for a more in-depth review.

Ease of setup and use

Setting up a Unifi access point is different from most other access points in a similar price range. Instead of having a built-in web-based administration interface, it requires that you install the controller software on your computer. The controller software runs on Windows or a MAC, and you can also download a Linux version from the Ubuquity website. Once the controller software is installed, then you use a web-browser to configure the unit much the same way as you would any other access point. For most of the features of the Unifi, the controller software doesn’t have to be running – you only launch it when you need to change the configuration. A few businesses oriented features such as captive portal need the controller software to be running in order to function.

For home use, the controller software doesn’t give you any major benefit, and it takes a little more effort to use than a built-in web-base administration interface. However, where the controller software becomes useful is when you have two or more access points. The controller software allows you to configure common settings such as SSID in one place, and it gives you lots of statistics on who is using wifi and what AP they are connecting to.

Some enterprise access points use a hardware controller. The problem with them is that if the hardware controller fails, you have to get a replacement to get things working again. With a software controller you can move the controller function to another server in minutes and be back up and running.

Range

The range of the Unifi access point is leaps and bounds better than my old Linksys. With the Unifi, any device can connect from any building on my property. In fact, I can manually set the power of the AP one notch back from the highest setting so it’s not using full power, and the coverage is still sufficient.

Value

For a business-class access point, it’s hard to find an access point with all the features of the Unifi without spending a lot more money. For home use, it’s still a good value, but there are other good choices. I’ve been impressed with the models I’ve used by Engenius. Although Engenius isn’t as well-known a brand as many others, I’ve found that they beat the more well-known brands in price, features, and reliability. But if you’re looking for business class features on a budget, go with a Ubuquity Unifi.

The model I purchased can be found on amazon by clicking here.

How to turn your child into a computer geek

memory1.JPGMy almost-three-year-old has gotten quite proficient at the game of memory.  You know, the one where you compete to find matching cards.  Not only is he good at remembering the location of the cards, but he can usually name the object or character on each of the cards.  So he now can correctly identify Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Goofy, and more.  While developing memory skills is a good thing, knowing who Goofy and Mickey Mouse are is not exactly a valuable skill.

memory2.JPGI figure if he can learn to identify useless characters, he can probably learn to identify useful objects such as computer components.  So I hunted down some sheets of blank 3.5″ diskette labels that had been in the cupboard for years, snapped a few pictures of computer components, and then designed and printed them using OpenOffice Writer.  Then I applied the labels to cardboard I salvaged from an empty cereal box.