Thursday, May 28, 2009

Programming with Canon without an SDK

I've been looking at a photobooth software called Photoboof upon the recommendation of a friend.  It sells for something like USD600 with a fully-functional trial version that just displays some watermark on the printout.  I've been thinking on-and-off of writing a photobooth software myself.  In fact, that was the main impetus why I looked into programming for my Canon EOS using the EOS Development Kit (EDK).

Photoboof claims it can work with Canon Powershots, EOS DSLR's, Nikon DSLR's, and even regular webcams.  I've been wondering how Photoboof can pull off supporting all these cameras.  Did it have to link the libraries specific to each camera model?  Well, as it turns out, it doesn't really talk directly to the camera's firmware.  Instead, it works with the camera's existing bundled software to handle the actual remote photo-shooting.  Then it just picks up the jpg files from some local folder.

I have to admit its an ingenious solution.  For Canon EOS DSLR's, it uses the bundled EOS Utility software to handle actual communication with the camera and the remote shooting part.  The EOS Utility even support "tethered" shooting, or shooting from the camera and having the image sent directly to the PC via USB, without saving a copy first on the CF Card inside the camera.

Photoboof uses the popular Irfanview image viewer software to handle the actual rendering of the image to the printer.  Again, very ingenious.  The author didn't have to do the dirty work of communicating with the printer.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Top Mobile Phone Manufacturers

According to ABI Research, Apple is now the 8th largest mobile phone maker.  Pretty impressive for a company that did not have a mobile phone in its portfolio a couple of years ago.  Also surprising (to me, at least), LG is now the 3rd largest mobile manufacturer with Motorola losing its no. 2 spot from long time ago.
  1. Nokia 
  2. Samsung
  3. LG Electronics
  4. Motorola
  5. Sony Ericsson
  6. BlackBerry (Research In Motion) 
  7. ZTE
  8. Apple
  9. Kyocera
  10. TCL/Alcatel Mobile Phones
  11. Huawei
I still have yet to buy a GSM phone other than Nokia.  Having started with the 5110, I have been a Nokia loyalist all this time.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Unending Hayden Kho Scandal Coverage

It seems that no matter if you're watching showbiz news, or regular news, the topic is all the same -- the proliferating sex videos of Hayden Kho with numerous personalities including Katrina Halili, doctor/commercial model Maricar Reyes, and an unknown Brazilian model (wow! Doc has been pretty busy!). In one hand, they're trying to protect the spreading of the video via the Internet. On the other hand, all these publicity is getting more and more people really curious (ahem, including myself) and increasing demand further. If they just kept it low-key, perhaps it wouldn't have gotten as bad as it has.

I'm not sure when the Maricar Reyes video happened. To be honest, I wasn't even aware of it (probably because they did not make a big fuss about it), nor did I know who she was. But after some research, it turns out that she's the commercial model in Modess and Ponds. YouTube videos of Maricar Reyes commercials can be found here.

What I found really annoying throughout all this, is actor-turned-politician Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla's involvement in all these topics as of late. Here's a senator that you hardly hear about the whole time he was sitting in the Senate. You don't hear him grilling the suspects in the ZTE scandal, or the Euro-General scandal, etc. Then suddenly, he's all over the place with this showbiz scandal. He's like a rabid shark that has tasted blood. He's getting lots of air-time in the news, in his privilege speech at the senate, etc.

Then yesterday, I saw him involved in yet-another showbiz-related issue. This time, with Hollywood actor, Alec Baldwin. From what I can tell, Baldwin guested in David Letterman's show and he made a joke about getting a Filipina mail-order bride. Of course, that triggered all sorts of racial protests, and guess who comes to the fray? Yes, none other than the showbiz crusader Sen. Bong Revilla again! This time, he challenges Baldwin to come to the Philippines so he can "beat him up".

Is it only in the Philippines or do politicians abroad also challenge people into a fisticuff whenever they make an offensive statement?  I wouldn't be surprised to get a reaction like that from an uneducated hooligan.  But from a senator?  Is that really the kind of image we want to impart to our youth?  That if you have a problem with what your classmate said, you settle it at the parking lot after school dismissal?

After all these brouhaha, will Katrina Halili's showbiz career really be affected? I kinda doubt it. Its not like she's known as a serious dramatic actress. She's a soft-porn star, for crying out loud! This incident will probably just make her even more popular. Look at Paris Hilton and the wonders that her sex videos have done for her career!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Katrina Halili and Hayden Kho Scandal Video

The local entertainment industry has been abuzz with the supposed latest sex video featuring Katrina Halili and Dr. Vicky Belo's ex-student-cum-boyfriend, Hayden Kho. The sex video is supposedly retailing for as much as Php100 in Quiapo or wherever it is that you usually buy pirated DVD's from.

I tried searching the 'Net for the supposed video, but could not seem to find anything "scandalous". Here's a link in YouTube of them dancing against George Michael's "Careless Whisper". What's the big deal? Or is there more after this scene that has been edited?

From the video, it seems very clear that Katrina was aware she was being videoed. Now she comes crying out foul? Well, I have to give Hayden some credit though. He's a pretty good singer!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Globe Labs Training

Globelabs, the innovation arm of Globe Telecom, conducted a developer training tonight at Powertips in Podium.  Globe has been encouraging developers to take advantage of its test platform to come up with interesting apps.  They have previously opened up API's for SMS, MMS and LBS (Location-based Services).  Tonight, they announced the availability of the Voice API.

The SMS, MMS and LBS API's are very straightforward to implement.  They can be accessed using standard HTTP REST (aka. name-value pair) format.  For Microsoft Visual Studio-based developers, a SOAP interface is provided complete with WSDL for easy referencing.  Developers are given a small quota of SMS/MMS to send/receive everyday for testing purposes.  Responses are sent back in industry-standard XML.

The Voice API, however, is quite a different story.  In fact, I would dare say its not much of an API.  The only API-ish thing about it is the "getConsent()" part, which is similar to LBS wherein the user has to provide consent somehow that he will use it.  I'm not really clear as to why this is necessary.

The rest of the "voice API" is really just standard Session Initiation Protocol (SIP).  You are basically on your own to implement it (or to use open source applications like Asterisk to implement it).  One concern brought up during the training is the choice of G.729 as the audio codec.  G.729 is a proprietary codec that requires commercial licensing/royalty for use unlike other codecs like G.711.  It has a low bandwidth requirement (8kbps, by default) though, which is why telcos favor it.

I guess I'll be doing some tinkering with this in the coming weeks.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Globe and Smart Marketing Intensifies (Against Each Other)

The two mobile telcos, Smart and Globe, have been intensifying their marketing against each other as of late. While it is not (legally?) acceptable marketing practice in the Philippines to explicitly mention your competitors in your ads unlike in the US, recent ads by Smart is pretty obvious in its offensive. There's a big billboard at the corner of EDSA and Pioneer (where Robinsons Forum is), in the past couple of weeks, that throws pot shots at Globe and Sun.

It shows the typical mobile phone icons for cellular signal strength with Brand "S" at the smallest bar, followed by Brand "G" (duh, who can that be referring to), and Smart leading with the most number of cellular sites. And if that is not obvious enough, the text above says "Over 2,000 more cell sites than he 2nd network".

What makes this location very interesting is its just a stone's throw away from Globe's headquarters along Pioneer Street! So I'm sure the Globe guys there are not too happy reporting to work every day with that billboard staring at them. he he he

I have to give Globe credit though for their recent launch of the DUO. Its a very interesting concept -- using a single SIM to have both a Globe mobile number and a Globe landline number. Then depending on whether you're calling a mobile number or a landline number, it uses the appropriate identity automatically so as to lower your cost (landline-to-landline call is free).

This would probably not affect Smart much, but it should be a cause for worry for telcos like Bayan who has been mainly positioning their service as an unlimited mobile-like/wireless landline service. The DUO can do what Bayan is claiming, while at the same time, enjoy mobile capability and have local + global roaming features. So the case for a separate wireless landline has somehow been reduced. If I already have a Globe mobile phone and am looking for unlimited landline calls, the value proposition of using DUO is better than getting a separate Bayan wireless landline. But if all I needed was unlimited landline, then Bayan is the better way to go as DUO requires that I also subscribe to a regular Globe mobile plan.

Incidentally, I received an unsolicited SMS today from Globe -- on my Smart number! The sender appeared as (0921)xxx9655. Undoubtedly, its a prepaid Smart number. The SMS was basically an offer to use Globe DUO. Its so obvious that it came from Globe. No, they can't claim it was just some over-eager sales agent who acted on his own because there was no info on who to call to avail of the offer. It was just a plain, flat-out, marketing txt message to try DUO. Globe marketing probably bought a Smart SIM, plugged it into a GSM modem, and started shooting messages to their list.

Globe has recently been marketing themselves as "the leader in postpaid". Granted that it is most likely a statistically valid claim, I'm really not sure as to what marketing edge it is supposed to convey. As a consumer, I can easily understand what benefits there are if there are more cellsites -- better coverage, stronger signal, etc. But what do I expect from a leader in postpaid? Better billing statements? nyuk nyuk nyuk.

If I don't have a mobile phone service and I'm deciding between Globe and Smart, would a tagline like "leader in postpaid" suppose to sway me one way or the other? I don't know if its just me, but I just don't find it a compelling marketing tagline as a consumer.

But I also give kudos to Globe for their Globe Labs initiative. Opening your platform to developers can only lead to more apps being made available to your customers. So in the end, everybody benefits. Currently, developers have access to their SMS, MMS and LBS (Location-based Service) API's. The Voice API will be launched in the next couple of days.

Incidentally, I have a Globe mobile, a Smart mobile, and a Bayan wireless landline. I've never tried using Sun although my wife uses it for her Sun-to-Sun unlimited calls (that is, if you are willing to get disconnected every 15 mins or so and have to redial).

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Celebrating Mother's Day by Myself

Since Cols and the kids are in Gen San this Mother's Day, I celebrated the day by myself. First, I woke up early to make sure I won't be late for the 9am service at UEC Metro East. It has been a long time since I've done Chinese-to-English translation service for our pastor. Since our usual translator is out of town, Reverend Tan asked me to step into my old job. The message today was, of course, about mothers. There was no specific Bible passage. I think I didn't do too bad considering the ring rust from out-of-practice.

From church, I passed by Loyola to buy flowers for mom. I had lunch at Valle with the grandparents and Sa-i-ma. I didn't stay too late as they had to visit grandma's brother at the hospital. From Valle, I went home quickly to get 3 picturebooks wire-bounded at UP. Then headed back out to Rockwell for a swim and delivered the picturebooks to a client at Bel-Air.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Doing Errands for Saturday

Since I'm all alone this weekend, I had the driver bring me around to my errands. I went to Rockwell gym and had him proceed to True Colors to print 120pcs of 8R's for a customer order of 3 x wire-bound picturebooks. Printing that many 8R's took a little over 1.5 hours at the developing center.

From Rockwell, we went to pickup the CRV from Honda Pasig where it was brought for tune-up. Among other things, they replaced the damaged shocks which gave me a whopping bill of P39k! These casas are highway robbers!

When I left Honda Cars Pasig, C5 was building a little traffic already. So it was slow moving. When I passed the BMW Prestige Cars showroom, I saw a familiar-looking, tall guy walk out of the door. Its James Yap, the popular PBA player for Purefoods, and more popular known as the husband of TV host Kris Aquino. Sure enough, Kris, Baby James, and Joshua (her giant son from actor Phillip Salvador) with their yayas also came out the door. I quickly aimed my camera phone and took a shot as they entered their Range Rover (Kris is the one in purple with her back turned). I need to be more alert next time if I'm to be a papparazzi.

Had a quick shower at home and met with Atty. Martinez at YCMK for dinner. I tried our new Dear Darla Pizza for the first time and its pretty good! When I got home, started pasting the 8R's back-to-back while watching WWE pay-per-view on our Philips DivX player.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Commercials Knock-Out Pacquiao Fans

The much-anticipated bout between Manny Pacquiao and Briton Ricky Hatton ended quickly. In fact, too quickly for the sake of the big companies who bet big advertising money to have their ads splashed during the in-between-rounds break. But with the match ending in Round 2, the free TV network GMA 7 had to insert a LOT of ads between the introduction, to the pre-fight announcement, to the two lone rounds it took for Manny to finish the match. GMA7 had to play the same 2 rounds two or three times just to fill all the airtime that was blocked. If I were an advertiser, I would feel short changed. But alas, such is the fate of the game.

So for all of us who did not pay extra to watch to fight live, we had to endure the barrage of ads. But in my case, as with previous matches of Manny, I used my Philips DVDR to just record the match so I can watch it afterwards by skipping all the commercials. And I was glad I did. I did not have to waste time sitting in front of the TV for hours just to watch 2 rounds of boxing.

But wait -- it seems that the match is not yet over even long after the knockdown. The guy who sang the National Anthem, Martin Nievera, is still under fire for his "interpretation" of the song. The National Historical Institue (NHI) scolded him for changing the arrangement citing Republic Act 8491 that states "the rendition of the National Anthem, whether played or sung, shall be in accordance with the musical arrangement and composition of Julian Felipe.”

Granted that I did not hear the entire anthem as sang by Martin (I only caught the last part), I am not sure if there is really such a big issue over this. Sure, he ended the last part on a high note; but don't all singers do that when they are asked to sing their national anthem during a big sports event? They do that all the time for Star-Spangled Banner in big WWE pay-per-views.