Google Cardboard

If you’ve been hankering after an Oculus Rift then Google Cardboard might be something you can use to whet your appetite for virtual reality. It’s basically a cardboard enclosure for your Android phone with two lenses, a magnet and NFC tag. Once assembled you launch the Cardboard app on your phone, put it in the enclosure and use the magnet at the side as a trigger button. Warning, there’s some NSFW language in the video below.

The Tested guys have a blog post with a few more insights and thoughts about Cardboard.

If anything, Google Cardboard brings more credibility to the rumor that Oculus is working with Samsung to create virtual reality goggle frames that can use Samsung Galaxy smartphones as the display. Cardboard’s cheap construction belies its effectiveness–the secret sauce here is in the 40mm lenses and the brilliant magnet-based trigger button.

I’d love to try one out. I wonder if I can get those lenses anywhere nearby?

PSA: Google may penalise you for using Auto-Backup

tl;dr: if you upload a large number of photos Google may stop you uploading new photos to Google Plus. I’m not sure how long the penalty stays in place or if it is lifted at all.

A few weeks ago I decided to use the desktop Auto Backup tool to make a copy of my photo archive on G+. I have over 155,000 photos but I have a relatively slow upload speed of about 50KB/s so I knew it would take a while.

The upload was working fine, Google Awesome started doing it’s #Awesome job making animated GIFs and enhancing photos. Old photos I hadn’t seen in years popped up in stories and animations and I shared some of them too. It all came to a crashing halt last weekend. My photo archive on G+ stands at just over 100,000 images.

First of all the auto backup app stopped working. It did this a few times but by restarting the upload worked again. Not so this time. Then I noticed photos from my phone weren’t being backed up to G+.

I then tried uploading a photo from my photoblog four days ago but that failed too!

Here’s what happens if I try to upload a photo and share it on Google Plus:

Google Plus upload failed

Here’s what it looks like when I try to upload files to the photo uploader:

Google Plus: photo upload server rejected

I did find this post by Brian Rose from 2011 which appears to be the only place a Google employee has discussed these limits. Unfortunately it’s not clear if this is a temporary cool down or permanent ban on uploading.

Hi everyone, thanks for your kindly emails. :-) The original issue reported here should have been resolved in July 2011, but our team has created additional confusion because Picasa uses a generic “Server rejected” error message rather than a more specific error code. There are limits to both filesizes per video (up to 1 GB) and to the number of bytes you upload to your Google account in a certain timeframe. I can’t provide exact details about those limits because they help us address abuse, but the more recent reports I see in this thread look more like what is reported at https://groups.google.com/a/googleproductforums.com/d/topic/picasa/5OVjFio8k54/discussion

That’s also a long thread, so to summarize:
If you’re trying to transfer a large quantity of photos (totaling well over 1 GB) in a short amount of time, you may see our Error 17 or Server rejected errors.
Photos that are uploaded to Picasa Web are saved on your Google account, they do not need to be re-uploaded to Google+. A photo you upload to Picasa Web will be accessible from Google+, and vice versa.
This isn’t related to the amount of free space you have in your storage quota, it’s about the number of bytes you’re pushing to your Google account in a certain timeframe. Deleting photos to free up space shouldn’t have any positive effect.
We’re constantly monitoring how many people hit these server errors and making tweaks to improve the experience for people who regularly share many photos or videos. Since this thread no longer addresses the original issue reported, I’ll lock this discussion to new replies but you can continue discussing this on the thread I linked to above at https://groups.google.com/a/googleproductforums.com/d/topic/picasa/5OVjFio8k54/discussion, thanks.

I found out I can upload files to Google Drive and share them from there but that’s hardly a suitable alternative.

So, why doesn’t the Auto Backup desktop app warn us that this might happen? I’m not the only one to hit this. Comments on this post suggests it might be a temporary ban of 14-30 days but I suspect that’s only a guess.

install-auto-backup

Meanwhile, Google is still trying to get me to use Auto Backup!

Turn your Android phone into a steering wheel

I was looking on Amazon over the weekend for PC steering wheels when I remembered that my phone could do the job! Install JD SimWheel from the Play Store, grab the device driver and server from here for your PC and you’re 90% of the way there.

It might take a few minutes tinkering with the settings in-game but Euro Truck Simulator 2 works fine with it. I still can’t reverse properly but now I can take corners smoothly and two of the buttons on-screen are already configured for left and right indicators!

Here’s a howto video and demonstration using the game GRID created by user MyHD2AndOthers on Youtube.

Next on my todo list is using a WiiMote as a steering wheel as I already have the steering wheel adaptor for it and it should be more comfortable than holding a phone!

Cat saves boy from viscious dog

Well, you’ve probably seen this already but it’s still worth posting here because it’s so amazing. A cat defended a young boy from a viscous dog that was attacking him by ramming the dog and chasing him off. It’s incredible to think the cat flew at the dog like that.

I read last night that the dog has been put down but can’t find that information anywhere now. That was one lucky boy, it could have been so much worse. More on the story here.

BAKERSFIELD – A cat came to her best friend’s rescue Tuesday when a young boy was attacked by a dog in his driveway in Southwest Bakersfield and it was all caught on video.

The surveillance video shows the boy, 4-year-old Jeremy, playing on his bicycle. He was coming home from school when he wanted to fly a kite. Jeremy has mild autism.

The neighbor’s dog, an 8-month-old labrador/chow mix, sneaks up behind him and bites his leg.

The family’s cat, named Tara, rushed the attacking dog and chased it away.

(Quoting the news story because I guarantee the link will die and in a few years time I’ll be wondering about it.)

Amazing Android Audio with ViPER4Android

If I was in any way skilled at writing prose I’d continue the alliteration in this post but alas I’m not so you’ll have to make do with the amazing ViPER4Android that makes Android devices sound absolutely amazing.

Their about page says that “ViPER’s Audio is an audio enhancing software to provide everyone with better audio experiences in various platforms such as smartphones and PCs.” It has a graphic equalizer and controls for changing surround sound, bass, treble, clarity and gain settings in the driver. I mostly used the default settings but pumped the clarity up to 12dB. There are different settings for headset, phone speaker, bluetooth and USB/dock. Music and voice sources sound so much richer, even through the phone speaker. I have yet to try the “sound of the kettle boiling” vs podcast test but hopefully it’ll help.

What first led me to try ViPER4Android was “Adapt Sound” on my Galaxy S4. The difference when using Samsung’s stock music player was like night and day. Unfortunately it didn’t change the sound out of any other player like Google’s Music Player. I needed an alternative.

You can download the apk file here. I installed the FX apk for the extra settings and installation is straightforward if your phone is rooted already. It may ask you to confirm a change to core configuration files that can cause damage. It warns you to make a backup first but I allowed it to do so and the phone rebooted without a hitch. I chose “Super Audio Quality” which the app warns might drain battery more quickly but I’m at home 99% of the time anyway so that’s not a major issue for me.

If you need further help, there’s some good illustrated installation instructions here.

Kerbal Space Program: The Minmus Space Station

Just over a year ago I docked two space ships in Kerbal Space Program for the first time. It was extremely difficult. The first time you do it it’s like balancing a full cup of tea on a 1m pole while cycling down the road on a unicycle. With the pole standing on your nose. It’s something I’ve mostly shied away from as it’s so frustrating.

However, after watching this video I tried again. Balancing my craft is made a lot easier by “hacking gravity” to test that the RCS ports are in the right place, setting the camera mode to chase, and the docking alignment indicator makes final approach more manageable. It’s still not easy but it’s not impossible. So I went a little overboard..

Space Station around Minmus

This is my space station around Minmus. It has a portable laboratory for processing science experiments brought up from the moon’s surface and plenty of fuel for refuelling. It’s also made up of space craft from 3 different launches all docked together. The capsule on the surface side of the station can be detached and can fly back to Kerbin with any valuable science. As you can see, Kenlorf Kerman is overjoyed with his new space station. He better be, he might be there for quite a while!

OK, so there aren’t any spare docking ports. I’ll, umm, have to send those up on the next launch. It’s lucky that Jeb is a competent pilot and can manoeuvre his craft around with ease when a new section arrives. Nothing scares him.

Jebediah and Kenlorf

Update! The space station has progressed. It’s longer after I sent up more rocket fuel and RCS monopropellant. My lander has been down to Minmus twice collecting science and I sent one command module back to Kerbin brimming with science. I then added a new section to the space station with 4 new docking ports. Getting them there was hair raising. I nearly ran out of RCS propellant. Gulp.

Minmus Space Station