GoPro Camera and DIY Mounts

For my birthday several months ago, Karrie got me this new GoPro camera.  I had been looking at getting one for a while now.  It's called the GoPro Hero and the great thing is that it's light, small durable and shoots HD video.  It also takes pictures and time lapse sequences but mainly it is used for shooting HD action videos where a bigger camera just won't work.  There are several different video modes like 1080P, 720P and 60 fps (frames per second).  The 60 fps is what i've found to be my favorite.  When i play it back on the computer, the video looks the best out of all the settings.  And if i ever want to create slow motion, i can always reduce the speed in half and still have a typical 30 fps.

The camera comes in a shockproof and waterproof case.  Which means that it can go under water and places where a normal camera might get broken.  It's lightweight design also means that you can attach it to things like helmets and you aren't too weighted down with equipment.
GoPro Hero, kit, case, viewing angle, field of view, degree, polycarbonate

The GoPro cameras are used by everyone from amateurs to network television shows.  You can also see that the lens is curved which gives it a 160 degree viewing angle.  It's great because you can be very close to something and still get everything in the picture.  Although there is no screen so you aren't 100% sure if they are in the shot or not.  You can buy a detachable monitor but it's expensive and not really necessary.  Plus it doesn't fit inside the clear plastic case.  

But you'll see on tv that the cameras get mounted on helmets for snow boarding, sky diving and mountain biking.  I've seen them mounted on the outside of cars during races, surfboards and anything and everything.  I plan on using it this year while skiing, tubing and behind Katie and John's new boat.  Also i want to mount it on the motorcycle, bike helmet and even take it underwater.

Here's how the camera attaches to the base.  The base and clear case are a heavy duty plastic / polycarbonate. 
GoPro camera base, bracket, white rubber, how to cut, how to make mount

This is the helmet mount, on the bottom is permanent 3M tape and it's curved to contour better to round helmets.  The bad part about this is that once the mount is attached it's permanent.  Not only is it permanently attached to whatever you stuck it to, but that also means that you can't attach it to anything else.  So i'm a little afraid to use it, but i plan on sticking it to an old bike helmet.
GoPro, 3M, helmet tape, mount, helmet mount, diy helmet mount

The GoPro Hero kit only came with those two brackets, so i decided to make some more custom ones.  I though a long while on how i could make something which would be strong and lightweight.  I didn't want the mount to break and have the camera sink to the bottom of a lake. 

Then one day i saw an old aluminum heat-sink lying around on my workbench.  I though that it wold be perfect.  I actually had a few from old computers and broken electronics.  This one was the right size and had close enough width in its fin spacing.
heat-sink, heat sinc, heat sync, diy mount for gopro camera, homemade

So after some cutting, gluing and lots and lots of metal filing i ended up with these.  I made two, one for each type of mounting direction.  That way i could minimize the wobble.  I was planning to attach one to a bike helmet and one to the handle bars.
homemade gopro camera bracket, mount, aluminum,

You can kind of see that on two of the fins i had to use copper washers.  The thin washers were needed to create a tight fit with the GoPro polycarbonate case.  I used JB Weld to glue the aluminum heat-sink to the base plate. 
diy gopro hero camera mount, attach to, bike, helmet, car, motorcycle, chest

Also you can see the pencil marks on the base for cut-outs.  After i took this picture i went back downstairs and drilled out those openings.  That way i could attach them with straps or rivets. 

This was another mount that i decided to try and make.  It's a chest mount, that with the help of 4 straps, would go on the front chest of someone. 
gopro chest mount plate, how to, homemade, plans, directions

The last thing i decided to make was a hand-held mount.  Just something simple that i could use to easily hold the GoPro camera around. Since it didn't come with any type of handle, i usually just leave this permanently attached to the case.
gopro camera handle, homemade handle for camera, wrist strap

I bought a thumb screw bolt to attach it to the camera.  That way i could remove it without any tools.  Also i drilled a hole in the bolt to attach a rope wrist strap.  That way if the glue or the heat-sink fins broke i would still have the camera attached to my wrist.  If i had attached the strap to the handle and the glue broke the camera would still fall.
how to attach, safety strap, gopro camera, wrist strap

Here's the other side of the mount.  I also JB Welded a nut to the back side so that it was always in place.
homemade handle and safety strap for gopro hero camera

This was actually what i used when i went to Gatlinburg Tennessee for New Years.  It was perfect for video taping the chair lift ride and even better when we went go-cart racing. 
simple, easy, strong, gopro camera handle, how to hold, diy

Originally i wanted to make a steadicam mount so that there wouldn't be lots of camera shake.  But that would have made it much bigger with a heavy weight at the bottom. The video from the go-cart racing didn't turn out super smooth.  There was lots of vibration and i had to record with one hand and drive with the other.  I still haven't finished processing the video from New Years, but when i do i'll post a link to the video here.  And i still plan on making a steadicam mount but it has to be small and durable.

Here's the link to the youtube video i shot with the GoPro Hero
Go Cart Racing in Gatlinburg Tennessee


300,000 Views - All Time

Yesterday i reached another milestone on the blog, 300,000 view all time.
blogger stats most all time, views, posts, how many views is the most all time, month, thousand

Even better is that last month i had 44,000 views which was the most i've ever had in one month.  

The picture above is split into 5 different sections.  The top left is a graph showing my monthly views.  As you can see, from 2008 to 2010 i wasn't very popular.  The first year i averaged only 100 views per month then in year two i jumped up to almost 1,000.  Now i average just over 1,000 per day.

The bottom left is my most popular Posts.  The blog post i wrote about how to watch free TV online has been my most popular single page.  Also that's by far and away my biggest earnings page on Adsense. 

Hopefully things keep moving on this upwards trend.


Free Remote Desktop Apps - RDP Remote for Android

If you read my previous blog post Free Phone to Computer App - Google Play Android, i reviewed a new app called Phone to Computer.  I ended by saying "Lets just say the future isn't here yet." I was talking about how the program was a great idea but not a complete package.  I also said, "I do think that in the next few years we will see something like a Remote Desktop for your cell phone.  Where you will run an app on your phone and you will see exactly what's on your computer screen at home."

Well that was just a couple of days ago and i guess the future is now.   Like Ferris Bueller said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it"

It turns out that there are a handful of cell phone apps that can control your computer.  They act as a remote desktop, similar to a VPN and allow you to see and interact with your computer, using just your cell phone.  The technical explanation of how it works is what's called remote rdp or remote desktop protocol.  
rdp remote desktop, how do you remote desktop on windows 7, remote rdp
With Phone to Computer i realized that it wasn't perfect but i saw the potential of being able to access your computer from anywhere.  Now this is nothing new, VPN's have been around for a while.  Companies use them all the time so that workers can access their work computers from home.  But this new software gives ordinary people a way to access their home computers using just their cell phone.

After using the Phone to Computer app for a few days though, i realized that it had a huge problem.  It only connected to your computer if you were on the same network.  Meaning it only worked if you phone was connected to the same WiFi that your computer was using.  Once you left the WiFi zone it wouldn't connect.  So basically the app is only good if you are sitting in a different part of your house and are too lazy to walk to the computer.


I began searching the Google Play Store for apps that act as an "rdp remote desktop" and what i found was really promising.  As i expected, there were some apps that cost $20, $30 and $40 to download, and some even had monthly fees.  Those apps were the Pro Editions that had all the bells and whistles.  But just below those expensive apps, many companies had free alternatives for individual use.  I searched for phrases like "remote desktop rdp" and "rdp for windows 7".  Google Play gave lots of results but only a couple were fully fledged apps for my android phone. 

So after sorting through all the choices, i decided to try out the Top 4 Free Remote Desktop Apps.

Here's what i wanted it to do:
  • Easy set-up.   Something an average person could configure in just a few minutes.
  • Must be able to control my mouse and keyboard, just as if i were sitting in front of the computer.
  • Must be fast.  It wouldn't be any good if everything was slow and jittery.
  • Must be able to run any program on my computer.
  • Must be free.
With that said, here are the best free apps that i found for android phones which will control your computer.

1.   TeamViewer for Remote Control

TeamViewer, Team Viewer, app, android, free download, google play, control computer, desktop
This app turned out to be my favorite and the best out of the four i tested.  This remote rdp was the easiest to use and easiest to setup.  It met all of my requirements for what i wanted the app to be able to do.  The free version of TeamViewer gives you two options to run the program.  Rather then installing the program i just select "run" every time.  That way it doesn't install anything on the computer.  Then i just have it automatically run on windows start-up and set it to the background.

Here's what the TeamViewer menu looks like on the computer.  I like the simplicity of its dashboard.  It automatically gives you "Your ID" and Password.  You just type those numbers into the app on your cell phone and you're connected.
Team Viewer, remote control, Your ID, Password, 4 diget, partner ID, 9 diget, connect, how to
With all of the programs i tested, you need to install two things: the app on the phone and the "server" on the computer.  The software on the computer must be running in order to establish a connection between the phone and computer.

TeamViewer's only downside is that it is a bit annoying.   When you try to close the dashboard, it stays open in the background.  But overall it works really well with only minor inconveniences.  And when it's running it looks exactly like i expected, you have complete control of your computer.
rdp remote desktop, how do you remote desktop on windows 7, remote rdp
The controls are very intuitive as well.  Double-tap = double-click, pinch to zoom, etc. 

2.   2X Client RDP/Remote Desktop
2X client rdp/remote desktop, remote rdp for android, free app, google play store 

A lot of reviews i read about the 2X Client RDP Remote Desktop software were very positive.  People said that it was a powerful program, but i didn't get very far with it.  It ended up failing my first requirement, easy to install.  

I downloaded the free 2X Client RDP app on my android phone.  Like with most apps it was very simple.  Just go to the Google Play store and download it.  But the problem came with the software that i needed to install on my computer.  It was overly complicated.  Where as the TeamViewer, i only needed one ID and Password, 2X Client RDP needed three.  First they needed my email and password.  Then it asked for a Computer ID and password for that.  Then i had to fill in my Username and password.  

If that was it, i would have been fine.  But then it asked me to type in my Primary IP address, Secondary IP address, Port, Domain, etc.  I thought that i filled in everything correctly and even got my Home-PC to show up on my cell phone menu.  
how to install 2c client rdp remote desktop, ip address, home pc, connection, settings, username
But after 15 minutes of trying to connect i eventually gave up. I tried going to the companies website and watching youtube videos for help, but this definitely didn't seem like something the average person could do.  It also didn't help that i was already very happy with TeamViewer, which i just got done installing in 3 minutes.

3.   Splashtop 2 - Remote Desktop
SplashTop 2, Splash Top, 2, android, free download, install, control windows 7 pd, rdp
Splashtop 2 Remote Desktop is another app that you may be unhappy with my review.  Actually i never attempted to install it.  Again the reviews were good, people said it was fast and easy to use.  But then i read that the Free Version only works if you are on the same WiFi network as your computer.  Just like the app Phone to Computer, it only worked if you were basically in the same house as your computer.  There is a Pro Version of Splashtop 2, but that cost $20 per year.

A lot of people said they like this because it's fast enough to play PC games on a cell phone.  I'm not sure if the graphics are any good though.  And i'd guess that the speed and game control isn't any good.  But it looks like it has the same rdp software interface as all the others.
SplashTop 2 setup, splash top install app, free android rdp, play computer game on phone
If they change how their "free" version works i'd definitely give this one a try based on what people have written.

4.   PocketCloud Remote RDP / VNC
PocketCloud Remote RDP, Pocket Cloud, app, how to install rdp for windows 7, vnc cell phone
PocketCloud Remote RDP came in at #2 on my list.  Everything installed fine and was just a little harder to connect than TeamViewer.  But there were two big problems i had with the app.  The first one is that it started "taking over my computer".  After it installed it wouldn't go away.  It automatically put these dumb double-arrows on the top right of every program window.  It was definitely NOT a small program that operated behind the scenes.  It became annoying very quickly.
PocketCloud setup, pocket cloud rdp remote desktop install, free download, connect, settings, connection ip
The second problem i had was when i tried to sign in.  Much like the 2X Client RDP it required multiple usernames, email, computer name and login name to connect.  Once i figured out that the second username and password had to be the same as the actual username of my home computer it allowed me to sign on.  Then without warning it automatically logged me off of my computer.  All of the other RDP/VPN apps worked while Windows 7 was running.  But this program just logs you off from the computer without asking. In bothered me in every aspect and i decided to uninstall it.

So in the end i decided to use TeamViewer as my RDP remote control.  It met all of my requirements and so far it's been great.  I can now quickly sign into my computer no matter where i am, as long as i have my cell phone and a WiFi connection.

I still think that this is the future.  The line between computers, laptops, tablets and cell phones are slowly merging together.  Until the point in time where we will all have just one device.


Free Phone to Computer App - Google Play Android

Have you ever wanted to control your computer with your cell phone?
Have you ever needed a picture or file, but it's on your computer at home, and you're not?
Do you want to be able to run programs on your home computer remotely?

There's a new app from the Google Play market that can do all of these things.  It's called Phone to Computer.  
free phone to computer app, connect your life, razapps, google play store, remote desktop app

Now let me say with this...it's not perfect but it does work.

When i started to install the software i imagined being able to see my computer screen on my phone, control the mouse and be able to click and type, just as i would be able to if i were sitting in front of it.  It's not quite that.  But lets start with the good stuff.

First, it's free.  You can try it out right now at no cost.  You install the app on your phone, then you download and run a java program on your computer.  The java program is called the Server.  It must be open and running to transmit the data.  Installing that was probably the trickiest part.  First you have to update to Java 6.0, which isn't a problem, there's a link right on their website.  Then you are able to run the file ptc.jnlp.  It will download and verify the application.  Since you are allowing another device to access your computer, your firewall should pop up and ask you whether you want to allow this.  Click Allow and also tick the box that says Always Allow, that way that warning won't continue to appear.

Here's a link to download the free Phone to Computer App.  It is from the Google Play shop and only runs on Android phones.  And here's a link to the creators of Phone to Computer.  This is where you download the Server file, Java 6.0 update and get instructions on how to install everything.

The first time you run the program it will open up a Wizard to try to help you set things up.  The times i tried going through the wizard it always got hung up on Trying to Find Router/Mode.  Apparently it was a problem with the Port Forwarding.  I never did learn how to fix it.  But when i clicked on Exit at the bottom right corner it ended up filling all the information in for me.  

Next you have to transfer all of that computer information to your cell phone.  Instead of typing everything in manually, the program has a really cool QR code generator.  If you read my previous blog post then you already know all about QR codes.  If you didn't then read a quick description here, What is a QR Code and How to Make One.  

You will need to install a Bar Code Scanner app on you phone but most people already have that anyway.  Then all you do is scan the QR code that comes up on your screen and all the information is automatically inserted.  And that's it.

I suggest changing some of the settings on your phone like Automatically Connect to Computer (that way you don't have to tell it which computer each time).  Also Disable Ads and Connect Using WiFi only.

But here is the main Dashboard of the program.  This is what it looks like on your phone.
phone to computer app, free download, google, remote desktop, control your pc computer, keyboard mouse control, backup

 Here's what the Phone to Computer App can do:
  • Control your keyboard and mouse
  • Give you a screen shot of your computer screen
  • Run/Delete/Send any program on your computer
  • Backup your files
Also you can copy files from your computer to you phone and vice versa.  Lets say you took a picture with your cell phone and want to save it on your computer.  Just got to the picture then do Send To.  There will be options like Text Message, Email... and at the bottom will be Phone to Computer.  If you click on that your phone will send the image to your computer automatically.  

The main thing i plan on using the Phone to Computer app for is to remotely control my computer.  By that i mean run Macros while i'm away.  Maybe i'll get into this in another blog post, but a macro is a series of clicks and keystrokes that run autonomously.  I could use the Windows Task Scheduler to run the macro at a specific time.  But with Phone to Computer i could log into my computer, as a remote desktop and run any program.  When you click on the File Management button you see this screen.
 phone to computer, google, transfer files from cell phone to computer, access files, view screen

With this i could find the macro file and run it.  Then the macro would automatically start and do whatever steps i recorded earlier.  So the good part is that the program can do what i had hoped, remotely control your computer.  The bad part is that you have to do a little bit of pre-planning by recording the macros ahead of time.

And that brings us to the not so good stuff.  aka. features that aren't quite there yet.

Yes you are able to control your mouse and yes you are able to type.  But you can't actually see what you are doing.  It's just a black screen on your phone.  It's kind of cool when you are sitting at your computer with your cell phone and you see the mouse move around, but then you realize that it won't work when you are away.  And that's the whole point.  When you watch the video showing all the apps features you get the impression that you can see the screen as you are moving the mouse, but you can't.

You can see your computer screen though, but it's only a picture or screen shot.  It's not a live feed of what's going on and what programs are running.

Now i'm not really blaming the program.  I think this is more a problem of internet speeds not being fast enough.  Yes there are things like VPS (virtual private servers) and Remote Desktops where you can control something like your work computer from home, but those are big complex programs that max out your computer settings.  

I do think that in the next few years we will see something like a Remote Desktop for your cell phone.  Where you will run an app on your phone and you will see exactly what's on your computer screen at home.  This program has the basic outline of that, but it's not all there.  

Lets just say the future isn't here yet.  But as cell phones get faster and more powerful and as internet bandwidth increases to things like fiber optic, this will definitely happen.


What is a QR Code and How to Make One

What is a QR Code?
How can i make a QR Code using my own information?

A QR code is basically a 2-dimensional bar code.  It's just like the barcodes which are on every product we buy, but a QR code can hold more information.
barcode vs QR code, traditional barcode, 2 dimensional barcode, square qr code

The Traditional Barcode was invented so that cashiers didn't have to type in the specific product number.  Because QR codes are 2-dimensional they can store information like email addresses, cell phone contacts, websites and addresses.

To really understand how a QR code works you need a cell phone with a barcode scanner app.  If you have an android phone, download this free barcode scanner app from the Google Play Store.  It's also super useful when you are at a store and want to compare the price of an item.  Just scan the barcode and see how much it is being sold for at other stores.  It lets you know if their sale price really is a good deal.

After you've downloaded the barcode scanner app, run it and hold your camera up to this QR code.
how to make a QR code, easy, free, what is a QR code
A window should pop up with address book information. 

Here's another one.  This will automatically open up your cell phone browser and go to a certain website.
easy QR code, how to make a QR code, what is a QR code

The best part is that you can make your own QR code with whatever information you want.  A popular use for it is on the back of your business card.  That way people just need to scan the QR code and all of your information will be entered into their cell phone automatically, rather then having them enter it manually.

This is the best website that i have found to create a QR code for free, it's called QRStuff.  It's really easy to use and gives you lots of possible options.

All you need to do is select your Data Type, fill in your information then click Download QR Code.

Here are all of the Data Types you can generate:
It's really easy to make one of these and people will think you hired some high-tech consulting firm to do it.  Give it a try.