Category Archives: Gadgets

Latch failed to open

Surface Book Latch Issues – “Latch Failed to Open”

Surface BookGot the Microsoft Surface Book this morning, and have been fairly impressed so far with this new device.   After playing some games, streaming my Xbox-One, and doing some work on it, I am really liking the specs of both the full unit and the detached tablet.

And although the hardware feels solid, I seems to be having a great deal of trouble with the latching mechanism between the tablet and the keyboard.  Here are my problems:

“Latch failed to open”

My “detach” button is unlit (not green or red) at all times (except when I press the key).  If I press the key, nothing happens.  If I hold the key in for about 2 seconds, it quickly flashes green (giving me about 1 second to pull the tablet out) and then almost immediately gives me this:

Latch failed to open


Here’s a video I made of this happening.  Maybe this is expected behavior, but I feel like 1 second is not enough time to bring both hands up to gently remove the tablet.

This wouldn’t be so bad, if it weren’t for my second problem….

Tablet Reattach / Loose connection of tablet to hinge issue

So after I plop the tablet back onto the keyboard, it goes crazy with the “device connected” and “device disconnected” sounds.  I feel like there is a loose connection somewhere because the sounds fire off everytime the screen (tablet) is adjusted or touched when it is on the hinge.  See video number 2:

And there you have it.  I’m hoping I just got a rare defective unit – please comment below if you’re seeing this error as well. I’ll be heading to the Microsoft store tomorrow morning to see what they say.  My online support experience today with Microsoft has been an absolute disaster on their part… but that’s a post for another day.

Update: Yes, I’ve installed the day 1 windows updates – it was the first thing that happened out of the box. And yes, I’ve been rebooting / shutting down to no avail.

DJI Phantom 3 Professional Multicopter Drone

DJI Phantom 3 Pro Review: A damn near perfect drone

DJI Phantom 3 Professional Drone Multicopter Review

The Phantom 3 quadcopter may look nearly identical to DJI’s previous Phantom 2 model, but these two devices are worlds apart.  I’ve owned the Phantom 2 for well over a year, and have had the Phantom 3 since April 2015. I’ve travelled the world with both of these drones and have many hours of flight time into both models.  The Phantom 2, for the most part, has felt like an experimental product. Phantom 3 feels like the future.

About the author: My passion is photography and videography.  I have never been interested in any kind of remote planes / multicopters before getting my hands on a Phantom drone. While there may be better/faster drones out there for the multicopter or RC enthusiast, I am writing this review from the viewpoint of an amatuer photographer.  I have no affiliation with DJI.

What makes the Phantom 3 so different?

Before going into detail of the camera, copter specs, or anything else, take a look at this picture:

Flying the Phantom 3 Professional with a Nexus 9 tabletOver the 4th of July weekend, I was able to show my 94-year old grandfather his property from 1000 feet in the air – in real-time 720p resolution.  This image so perfectly sums up what I love about this drone: Out of the box, this thing is amazing.

Yes, there are many ways to do a live-view with the Phantom 2 or other drones, but DJI has this working out of the box on the Phantom 3.  You just supply your own tablet (The Google Nexus 9 shown in the picture is my preferred choice).  The streaming works incredibly well:  I’ve flown the drone from indoors, from behind buildings, and even while in a moving vehicle travelling at 40 mph down a mountain road… and everything just works.

The Controller – Now with HD Live view!

Flying the Phantom 3 is a blast.  Within 30 minutes, any adult that has ever played a video game will get the hang of the controls.  In addition to the flight sticks you would expect, the controller also has a dial to control the angle of the video camera in real-time, among other customizable buttons.

DJI Phantom 3 Drone Controller

The previous Phantom 2 had this camera angle slider/dial as well, but it was difficult to keep calibrated,  and the sliding mechanism was inaccurate. The only way to know where the camera was pointed on the Phantom 2 was to bring the drone back down close enough to see the camera.  This entire situation is resolved with Phantom 3’s live view.

The controller has a built-in battery that uses the same battery charger used by the drone LiPo batteries. One minor annoyance is that DJI does not recommend charging both the controller and a drone battery at the same time.  The cord is split out to make this possible, but for some reason DJI advises against this.  But in the last two months I’ve only had to charge the controller twice – not a big deal.

Currently the DJI app and controller are only compatible with a handful of devices:

If you don’t own one of these devices, you’ll need to buy one to get the most out of the drone. While the iOS app seemed to work okay on my iPhone 6+, I loved the extra screen space provided by the Nexus 9.

The DJI Pilot App – Everything but the kitchen sink

Maybe I’m just getting old, but mobile apps these days on both iOS and Android seem less stable than most traditional desktop applications. So when I heard the Pilot app was going to not only feature a live 720p video stream and flight tracker, but also have a fully functional video editor built in, I almost didn’t even want to pull the trigger.    “There’s no way this app is going to be anything more than a bloated, unstable pile of crap”, were the words that came out of my mouth when I found this out.

Fortunately, I’ve never been so wrong.  This app is the most impressive mobile app I’ve ever used.  DJI absolutely nailed it.

The app is divided into a few major areas: Flight Mode, Pilot Log, and Director (video editing!)

Flight Mode has two different views – a map-centric view, and a camera-centric view. The map won’t help you much if you are somewhere without a cell signal or wifi.

The memory card onboard the drone captures video in 4k, but the app does a fine job of capturing the live feed from the drone directly to the mobile device (albeit, in 720p).  This means that there is a cached video of your flight on your tablet or phone as soon as you are done flying.

Using the Director, you can then choose clips and some background music and within 10-15 minutes, have something fancy to show whoever is around.  I can not express how cool this feature is.   The templates provided in the Director app are limited, and you won’t be making anything “professional” without a real video editor, but you can show off your shots in style if you’re just buzzing around your friend’s house.

And there are many more corners to this mobile application.  You can change drone settings, camera settings, log your flights, view your real-time battery charge. Even taking off is as simple as a flick of your finger (I love the auto-take-off feature!)

Here’s is an example of what can be made all from within the DJI Pilot app:

The Camera

Phantom 3  Professional CameraAt first I wasn’t thrilled about getting an integrated camera. I like being able to easily swap out the GoPro on my Phantom 2.  But once again, DJI surpassed my expectations with this powerful camera.

The resulting videos are clear, vivid, stable, and just amazing to watch on a 4k display. Although you can take both stills and video from the app while in flight, the picture of my neighborhood above is actually a still frame from a 4k video.

The 12 megapixel camera on board shooting in 4k on the Professional version, and 1080p on the Phantom 3 Advanced.  The Professional version sports a f/2.8 lens with a 94⁰ viewing angle. The first thing I noticed is that the distortion you usually see on GoPro cameras didn’t exist. The horizon appears flat – very different than that signature GoPro curve. Phantom 3 Drone Neighborhood Shot

Compared to my Phantom 2, the video footage I get out of the Phantom 3 is much more stable. The gimbal does such a nice job stabilizing that long-exposure shots are possible from mid-air!

Vision Positioning

Just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you should. I feel like this still applies to one of the top features being marketed with the Phantom 3 Pro and Advanced: Vision Positioning. The Phantom 3 has a new camera and ultrasonic sensor facing the ground so that it may track its position without GPS. It looks for patterns on the ground! Yes, this means indoor flying.  But just because you can fly this thing indoors, why would you want to?

The DJI commercial shows a wedding being filmed with a drone in a church.  If you’ve ever heard a Phantom drone flying above your head, you’ll understand why the idea of using this (admittedly cool) technology in a church is laughable.

My experience with vision positioning so far is limited to my living room, and it probably won’t go too far beyond that. I’m sure there are use cases out there for some of us, but I’m guessing most of us won’t be flying a drone through a church anytime soon.


Pricing and Summary

The Phantom 3 Pro has changed the way I take photos and shoot video.  Getting out the drone is no longer a chore, and being able to see what you are filming in real time while whizzing down the highway in a car makes me feel like some kind of wizard from the future.


  • Paying between $1200-$1400 bucks for a tech gadget on the surface seems steep, but with the awesome 4k camera, gimbal, controller, and the crazy robust apps for the smartphones, I see the value.  I consider this purchase as one of the best I’ve made in the last several years — Especially considering this was the cost of the Phantom 2 at release.
  • 4k video with setting that you can control while in flight. The 3-axis gimbal seems more stable than anything I had on Phantom 2.
  • HD real-time video from your drone from up to a kilometer away – changes the way you film.
  • The mobile app for flying, tracking, and editing your video is top-notch.
  • SDK  – Develop your own applications and automation for the drone!


  • The battery life is still about 20 minutes, and extra batteries cost $175 – ouch.
  • The safety features may be an annoyance to some.  There are a lot of things that could go wrong on an automated flight home.
  • Updating firmware (as of July 2015) is kind of a pain.

DJI has this market cornered – with good reason.  The Phantom 3 Pro is an amazingly polished piece of technology. So if you’re looking to add some excitement to your vacation (and your vacation videos)…  and want a reliable experience out of the box, go with the Phantom 3.

Here is what my drone travel kit contains (as of July 2015):


Gear List

Gear List

Here you will find my updated photography / videography gear list – these are products that I personally use and rely upon in the field while taking pictures or making videos.  This list is updated regularly as I upgrade to new equipment!


Gear List  – Updated July 2015

Multicopter / Aerial Photography: DJI Phantom 3 Professional Drone

DJI Phantom 3 Professional Multicopter DroneThis drone is absolutely amazing – it has drastically changed the way I make videos and take photos.  I had mixed feelings about the Phantom 2, which I owned and used for one year, but the Phantom 3 Pro, with the built-in live view and companion app blows the former model out of the water. The 4k video camera attached is also very good. Review coming soon.


Primary Camera: Canon 6D

After coming from a 40D, I made the jump to a full-frame sensor with this camera. At the time of purchase, I wasn’t too interested in video, but boy am I glad the 6D has full 1080p video capabilities, because it is what I now use as my primary body for both still and video.

Canon Camera Lenses:


Video and Photography Accessories:Gear List

Echo now talks to Hue and WeMo

Echo Connected HomeWhile I was asleep last night, Amazon pushed an Amazing update out to Echo. Echo can now talk to my Philips Hue lights AND my WeMo Home Automation devices!

You can now say things like

Alexa, turn on the kitchen lights.

or even..

Alexa, turn on the coffee!

I tried out these very commands this morning. The results…? My life is now complete.  The home automation scene NEEDED a device like this… an omni-directional speech recognition device that integrates to existing platforms.  And now we have it. At least, the start of it. I would love to see Dropcam and Nest integration among other things.

Bravo, Amazon.

Amazon Echo now does Traffic

Amazon Echo Traffic ReportsAmazon is slowly rolling out new features to the Echo, and today’s update introduced traffic reports. The functionality as it is today is rather limited: You need to configure the to and from destinations in the app before she can give you a report – just ask “Alexa, how is traffic?”

And that is all she can do right now… just report on the traffic between those two locations. I tried asking about the “traffic to RDU airport” and several other locations, and the response was “I can not find the answer to the question I heard”.

I find myself in the camp that appreciates frequent, steady updates (versus huge updates once a quarter), so I’m looking forward to the many feature additions the Amazon team will surely add in the future.

Here’s a quick video of the traffic report in action:

Update (3/13/2015): Just saw the mail they sent out this update.  Apparently, they’ve also added a new Celtic Prime Playlist in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

Echo Traffic Email

Vessyl the Smart Cup

Vessyl Smart CupVessyl: the drinking cup that knows and tracks what you’re drinking. This brand new gadget claims to be able to detect even the brand name of the liquid it holds. But at a price point of $119 dollars,  it has also been making its rounds in recent late-night monologues.

Who would pay $120 for a cup?  Well, out of pure curiosity,  I just pulled the trigger. This product likely has a very limited potential customer base… at first, it will probably appeal only to techies with a passion for life-logging.  But as time goes on, and production costs get cheaper, I’m guessing the price will drop to something more reasonable that the average soda-chugging consumer could afford.

Currently, there are few details available about how it actually works. Some are guessing it uses an absorption spectroscopy technique.

If nothing else, this will make for a fun toy and conversation starter.  If you’ve got $120 of disposable income, reserve your pre-order today. Ships in “early 2015” which I guess is any day now!

Buy one here:


Your vacation video needs drone footage

The days of our parent’s vacation videos are over.  Nobody wants to watch 25 minutes of unedited, shaky, hand-held video of your kids running around in a hotel room.

I’ve never been drawn to do a vacation video until I bought my quadcopter, and the results were inspiring!  I am a total newbie when it comes to flying the Phantom 2, and this is by far the most video edited I’ve ever done at one time. But for a first video, the results weren’t too bad! The drone footage ups the production value quite a bit! Check it out-

About the gear used:

Locations visited included Sint Maarten (St. Martin),  Île Fourchue (island near St. Maarten), Sint Eustatius (Statia), and Saint Barthélemy (St. Barths).

Pre-order the hottest 60Hz 4k monitor now!

The long awaited Samsung 28″ 4k LED monitor is up on Amazon right now for Pre-order for $699. While there are cheaper alternatives out there, this is the first display that does 4k at 60Hz refresh (via DisplayPort) for less than $1000.

Samsung 28" 4k 60Hz

As a developer, I can’t wait to see my desktop with all the extra real estate. It also comes with PiP with the two HDMI ports. Folks really seem to be excited about this, but I don’t see the draw on this feature, as I have many monitors on my desk.  It is important to note that the HDMI connections are limited to 30Hz, so if you get this, make sure you also have a DisplayPort output to really take advantage of this thing.

I just pre-ordered, and my estimated ship date is April 21.

Here’s the link to buy:


CompTia Security+ Exam Tips

CompTia Security+While the exam is still fresh in my head, I going to hand out some tips and suggestions for the CompTia Security Plus exam.  I took the test one time, and passed with a 834/900.

My Previous experience:

  • A few weeks ago, I got my MTA Security Fundamentals, along with the CompTia Network+.  The Network+ really came in handy for Security+.
  • 10+ years in telecom, IS/IT/Development roles
  • Lots of other certs… I’ve taken nearly all MTA certifications now, mostly thanks to WGU (Washington Governors University).

My study time/process/tools:

  • I spent about 4 days preparing for this exam.
  • My university provided an online tool called LabSim, provided by “TestOut”. This was a mix of videos, tables, quizzes, and hands-on simulated exercises.  I did not really feel this was efficient use of my time, but 90% of my study time was spent using this source.
  • I also had access to a UCertify Course as provided through WGU. I avoided this source.
  • Professor Messer’s Security+ videos on Youtube. I watched about 10 of the ~200 of them. Those are really great, especially if you need a clear explanation on a topic you’re not getting.

What to focus on:

  • If you don’t do ANYTHING else, at least memorize the protocols (and where they are used), ports, associated hashing or crypto algorithms, and categorization.  The thing that helped me the most was the fact that I had all of the symmetric and asymmetric protocols and algorithms fully memorized.  In fact, before I even started the test, I jotted them all out on the scratch paper, under their proper heading. I referred back to this table probably about 20 times.
  • Know the “strongest” configuration for all areas: wireless networking,  remote authentication, etc.  There were quite a few “what is the most secure configuration” type questions.
  • Don’t skip the chapter on the risk assessments and calculations… I skipped it and it cost me a few questions, I think.  There were probably 7 or 8 questions about risk management, documentation and process.
  • Know the terms involved with security threats.  I was tempted to skip the chapters discussing worms and viruses, but I’m glad I didn’t because there were probably 20+ questions on phishing, worms, viruses, malware, spear fishing, vishing, pharming, rootkits, backdoors, trojan horses, etc.  Make sure you REALLY know the difference between these, and the appropriate response to these security threats.

What to skip:

  • The LabSim online training course I was using (provided by “TestOut”) went into a LOT of detail and hands-on exercises that I felt wasted a lot of time.   They had me doing many tasks that were unrelated to security, such as dinking around with AD, adjusting network settings, etc.  While it may help give context to some of the concepts, just keep in mind that every question on the real exam asked a SECURITY question.  For example, on the real exam, I was never asked to configure a RADIUS server or anything close to that. But I WAS asked many, many questions regarding the protocols, ports, and algorithms used with RADIUS.

FI9821W – Big firmware update (finally)

FI9821WFoscam has finally released a sizable firmware update to address the many issues/bugs/inconsistencies with their popular 9821W HD Wireless security camera.

Highly anticipated features include:

  • Added support for MJPEG HTTP URL stream, and JPEG capture, similar to older MJPEG camera functionality
  • Fixed many items related to email, FTP, and general security concerns (say goodbye to stupid default pre-configured users!)
  • Fixed bugs and added setting to adjust the pan/tilt, especially when the camera resets/turns on.

View the full change log or just go get the update!