“Gneiss”

Gneiss is pronounced as “nice”.

Geologically speaking, a gneiss rock is a metamorphic rock.

 

Conversation between my lab partner while we were trying to identify rocks:

*Classmate grabs rock sample C*

Me: Oh that’s a gneiss rock you got there (It was actually a gneiss rock)

Classmate: haha

*Classmate grabs rock sample D*

Classmate: Ew this rock looks ugly

Me: Well, that’s not very gneiss… (The rock really wasn’t a gneiss one)

Classmate: Really Jacky? 😛

Me: You have to give me credit for that gneiss joke

Classmate: haahahahaah

[Black Friday] 2015 – Logitech C920 HD Pro Webcam


What year is this? Aren’t all webcams built in nowadays? Why would anyone buy an external one?

A little trip down the memory lane… back to 2004


This is an Eagletech webcam as far as I remember… features include:

Resolution: VGA – 640×480 @ 15fps

Focus: Manual (You twist the blue ring to focus :P)

Microphone: Mono

Hardware acceleration: what acceleration?

Interface: USB for video + 3.5mm jack for audio

The last time I had a webcam was 11 years ago… To put it in perspective, this was a time when

– Laptops did not come with webcams

– Windows XP was the newest operating system

– There was a browser called Netscape (which eventually formed the basis of what we know as Firefox today)

Fast forward to now…


This is a Logitech C920 webcam, features include:

Resolution: Full HD – 1920×1080 @ 30fps

Focus: Auto (20-step)

Microphone: Stereo

Hardware acceleration: Yes, H.264

Interface: USB (for both video and audio)

Due to the fact that most laptops now have webcams built in, the market for external webcams have slowed down a fair bit. The lack of interest or competition in this area means this 2012-era webcam is still top of the line in 2015.

In operation


On a Windows machine, it is plug and play.

The sides emit a blue glow when the webcam is in operation. There is no physical switch to stop the camera from watching.


Here’s how it looks on a 22″ LCD screen. IKEA cup for reference.

So… why?

I am an international student, my family is in Hong Kong and my best friend is in London right now.

Edmonton to Hong Kong is 10,400 km

Edmonton to London is 6,700 km

It will be quite some time before I get to meet up with them again… so, I figured the least that I could do is make video chats with them as great as I can.

But webcams are all built-in now no?

Yup, but most of them top out at a resolution of 1280×720, which is what my Surface Pro 2 has. This webcam does Full HD @ 1920×1080.

In two words: Image quality

*Problem specific to my computer* My surface has a built-in microphone, but it is placed right next to the fan. The only thing that the other person hears is wind noise 😛 So this webcam solves that problem too as it has stereo microphones 😀

Test shots

These are shot with the built-in camera app in Windows 10, on full auto.


Surface Pro 2 – Built-in webcam


Logitech C920 Pro

The colors are a bit more saturated in the Logitech

The colors from the built-in camera are a bit more muted, but a lot closer to what it is like in real life.

Let’s look at the details in our 100% crops


Surface Pro 2 – Built-in webcam – 100% crop


Logitech C920 Pro – 100% crop

Here, we see the Logitech shine. The pattern in the green gem is visible in the Logitech, while the built-in camera completely smudges it out.

Image quality wise I would give Logitech the win here simply because saturation levels can be adjusted in software, while lost details from the built-in camera cannot be recovered.

Using it with Skype

It is pretty much plug and play. However, Skype exhibits a “ramp up” behavior. Where it starts off with a low resolution and if the connection can handle it, it will ramp up to a higher resolution. Here are some of my observations:

Edmonton (Telus) >>> London (BT)

@0 sec VGA 480P, uploading at ~1Mbps

@3 sec HD 720p, uploading at ~3Mbps

@5 sec Full HD 1080p, uploading at ~6Mbps

Edmonton (Telus) >>> Hong Kong (PCCW)

@0 sec VGA 480P, uploading at ~1Mbps

@10 sec HD 720P, uploading at ~3Mbps

@15 sec Full HD 1080P, uploading at ~6Mbps

It looks like you need a connection that is capable of uploading at 6Mbps in order to reach the full potential of this webcam. Similarly I would assume you will need a 6Mbps download connection to receive full HD content.

Processor utilization was super low. My processor was basically idling if I was just sending. Intuition tells me that the computer is simply sending the H.264 video stream direct from the camera.

The camera does get a little warm, possibly due to the fact that it is handling the H.264 encoding in hardware.

Final thoughts

+ Hardware acceleration inside the camera frees up your processor to do other stuff

+ Lots of detail @ 1080P

* Color saturation is a bit off out of the box, but I won’t knock it as that is adjustable in software

– Price – This thing is 129CAD original which is really steep for a webcam upgrade. Black Friday pushed it down to 79CAD, which is slightly more manageable.

Overall, video is nice, audio is clear. If you want to video chat with someone far away and both parties have a decent internet connection (6Mbps up and down), this is a pretty solid choice… when it’s on sale 😛

Biking to school…

I biked to school today.

Huh? How is that news?

Well, to be more precise, I biked to school with snow 😛 Edmonton snow.


The snow is so deep I can plant my bike in it, no kickstand required.

10km/h drifting

Writing that title felt weird, a little oxymoronic. But yes, you realize you can drift, on a bike, at 10km/h. Intentional or not. 😛

Brakes? What brakes?

Cheap bike, so no disk brakes here. The wheel transports snow up to the brakes and clogs it. Not too bad, but it gets better (or worse for me).

These brakes do their job by friction. The rubber clamps on to the wheel and friction slows down the wheel.

In this case, the rubber + snow clamps on, and friction melts the snow into water. Sub-zero temperatures then freezes said water into ice.

Now you have ice pads as brakes. Or in layman’s terms, no brakes.

The wheels are spinning but you are not going anywhere

Ever rode a stationary bike in the gym? This is like that.

Ever watched a car doing a burn out? This is like that.

Ever rode a bike in loose sand? This is like that.

Do you recommend riding a bike like that in thick fluffy snow?

No.

[Plant] – Day #4 – A sign of life?

We have movement! (The line top left)

Overcoming the hurdle of not enough light in my room –

From elementary, I learnt that photosynthesis absorption happens mostly at wavelengths around 450nm and 675nm. That is basically blue light (450nm) and red light (675nm).

I checked out the lights in my room, all of them try to emulate an incandescent bulb, so 2700K. Not good as that means they are all “yellow-ish” or warm colored.

I remember my desk light is a fluorescent tube and looks a little blue, but it doesn’t say what color temperature it is… To confirm…


I took a picture of the light, put it into Adobe Lightroom and we find out that it is 6200K!

Perfect! Anything above 5000K would be blue-ish (or cool colored). Satisfying our needs for a blue light.

Now I just need to turn on my desk light more 😛

[Online adventures] #8 – EBay – Bike helmet (Motorcycle helmet PGR ST01)


Hmmm it doesn’t fit in our usual “product shot” frame


Better

EBay: 32USD (45CAD 2015)

I needed a bike helmet as I would be riding on the road. I looked at Sportchek to see what the prices are:


40CAD protect half of your head

45CAD protect your entire head

The choice is clear.

So why don’t people wear full-face motorcycle helmets on bikes?

I googled that and mostly people say there is less ventilation and that could lead to a heat build-up.

In programming, we have a saying: One man’s bug is another man’s feature.

I’ve lived in Edmonton for four years, and our winters are about -20C. Heat build-up? Yes please!

Wearing the helmet

I think I am the only person in town that wears a motorcycle helmet on a bike. I am bound to get some attention.

Situation 1: Conversations

Someone saw my helmet and asked: “oooh what’s your ride?”

Me: “Oh, I ride a bike.”

Situation 2: Checking into storage

I wanted to check my helmet in at the front desk of a gym and they wanted a driver’s license. I told them that I didn’t have one and they were annoyed instantly. Due to the motorcycle helmet, they assumed that I must
have a motor bike and therefore have a driver’s license. They thought I was trying to be difficult and unwilling to show my driver’s license 😛 I then told them “Oh, I ride a bike.”

Situation 3: Stare-downs

I bike on a route where there are other cyclists.

When it was still 10C, they give me this “wow what an overkill” stare

Currently the weather is around 0C so cyclists generally mummify their head + goggle up + helmet on top. They now look like me 😛

On a more serious note

– This helmet is warm, so unless that is a feature for you, this is not the helmet for you.

– Wind noise is a problem. Even at bike speeds ~30-40km/h you can clearly hear the wind blowing.

– The helmet hinders hearing a little bit. You can still hear cars, but they are definitely not as loud as before.

– Your field of view is narrower, you will have to learn to compensate for that by turning your head more. You also have to be a lot more careful as the procedure for making turns and switching lanes is more complicated than on a motorbike.

– You feel safer in this helmet, and you’ll be more likely to put yourself in an unsafe situation. Again, something you will have to take into account.

If none of those things bother you, the helmet is super comfortable. The cushioning inside is detachable for washing.

Final thoughts

If you live in a warmer climate, wear a regular bike helmet. The extra field of view and not sweating yourself out is a huge plus.

If you live in a colder climate, you might as well give this a shot. But do note the narrower field of view!

Bubble Waffle! (鷄蛋仔) Attempt #1


The bubble waffle maker has finally arrived! Always wanted to own one of these. Now I can make my own bubble waffles!


Materials: Eggs, flour, sugar, custard powder, butter, buttermilk, vanilla and beer.


Originally I thought this was going to make two. Turns out this could make six, but I didn’t mix it properly so I could only make four.


First one! I intentionally overcooked it coming in at five minutes. From there I go down and figure out the optimal time without undercooking (which makes it messy to deal with)

Second one was four minutes and it was still a little over cooked…


Third one was three minutes, that was pretty good. Now I just need to learn how to pour the batter on correctly.

Forth one was worse because I ran out of usable batter and spreaded it too thin.

Personal evaluation:

Taste – 7/10

Structure – 5/10

Look – 3/10

Where a 10/10 would mean it is exactly like a bubble waffle from Hong Kong.

Ingredients in specific:

Eggs: 2
Flour: 60g
Sugar: 20g
Custard powder: 20g
Butter milk: 20ml
Concentrated Vanilla: A few drops
Beer: 5ml

The economy of making your own bubble waffles

Eggs – $0.23

Flour – $0.08

Sugar – $0.03

Custard powder – $0.13

Butter – $0.05

Buttermilk – $0.2

Vanilla – $0.07

Beer – $0.01

Total = $0.8 CAD

If you buy it from a shop = $5 CAD

But we have to consider the cost of the bubble waffle machine. Which is = $50CAD

$5 – $0.8 = $4.2 CAD saved per waffle.

$50 / $4.2 = 12. Therefore we need to make 12 waffles before the waffle maker pays for itself.

After that, we will be making bubble waffles at a low low price of $0.8 CAD/waffle. This is without bulk pricing. If we purchase our materials in bulk (larger sizes), we can lower the cost even more. Therefore $0.8 CAD/waffle here represents our worst case scenario.