High quality video at home is attainable. Read about two options to get help you get there.
In the pre-pandemic era, upgrading your appearance could be as simple as a new haircut or accessory, or as complex as a complete wardrobe overhaul with professional consultation. For leaders, professional service providers, or those simply looking to make a good first impression, an investment in one’s appearance was a fairly simple upgrade to one’s working life.
With remote working now the norm for many of us, the quality of one’s video feed is becoming the equivalent of a designer suit, or a rumpled shirt with a mustard stain. I previously wrote about some basic video conferencing upgrades one can borrow from the game streaming community, and an obvious upgrade you may be considering is to your video.
The built-in camera on your laptop, even if it’s a rather expensive MacBook, is likely substandard at best. For a relatively small investment, an upgrade to something like the Logitech C920 can enhance your video and audio quality. However, if you want to significantly upgrade your video quality and use that as a differentiator, here are two “next level” options: A high-end digital camera and a broadcast-grade IP camera that allows full pan, tilt, and zoom functionality.
The digital camera option
If you’re like me, you may already have a digital camera that’s been sitting in a drawer not fully earning its keep. Interestingly, most of the major camera manufacturers have released software that effectively turns your digital camera into what your operating system perceives as a USB-connected webcam.
In my case, a quick Google search for “Fujifilm webcam software” resulted in a small download that allows me to connect my Fujifilm X-T3 to my Windows and Mac computers. After some minor fiddling with the software and adjustments to my camera settings, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and my other video conferencing software now had a Fujifilm option in the list of available cameras.
As one might expect with an actual camera, you can adjust exposure settings, focus, aperture, white balance, and any other setting that can be tweaked for taking photographs or video and now broadcast that video feed using your software of choice. The video quality is shockingly improved, although not unexpectedly when using a lens that’s several multiples more expensive than even a high-end webcam.
While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend running out and buying an expensive camera and lens like my Fujifilm, if you already own a digital camera from a manufacturer like Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, or a similarly large company, a free download might be all that it takes to turn your disused camera into a significant video upgrade. Adding a simple tripod like a GorillaPod makes for a great setup that’s fairly portable and uses the tools you already have.
Some cameras may require an additional power adapter cable so you’re not constantly changing batteries, and in some cases, require an HDMI converter that allows your computer to capture the HDMI signal from the camera on your computer. For my Fujifilm, the USB-C cable supplies both power and the video signal, making for a simple one-cable solution.
The broadcast option: Panasonic AW-HN38
Panasonic loaned me one of their broadcast PTZ (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) broadcast cameras, the droid-like AW-HN38. These cameras were originally designed to be used in environments like stage performances, lecture halls, and houses of worship. While not designed specifically for remote workers, these cameras present some unique possibilities for those willing to spend some time working through the more technically complex setup.
Assuming your network provides power over ethernet, the camera only requires a single cable, and can be set up anywhere you can run an ethernet cable, allowing for more interesting possibilities than a camera that’s tethered directly to a computer. As is unfortunately the case with most “enterprise grade” products, excellent technical capabilities are marred by a complex and disjointed user experience. For the Panasonic camera, one needs to first install the EASY IP Setup software to find the camera on the network, and then install the PTZ Control Center application. Several key functions, like powering the camera on, are performed from the camera’s internal web server, so you’re frequently bouncing between the PTZ Control Center and web interface.
Panasonic provides a webcam software package, although it’s Windows-only and my Mac is my primary video conferencing platform. However, the camera provides configurable video streams using the RTSP protocol. This stream can be fed to any number of video applications. I was able to use the free Open Broadcast Studio software to ultimately get video from the Panasonic camera into Zoom on the Mac.
If you’re thinking that this sounds a bit complex, you’d be correct; however, there’s a key benefit to the Panasonic that could make the cost and complexity worthwhile in a remote work situation: The PTZ function. One can use the Control Center application to move the camera nearly 360 degrees, up and down, and zoom 22X. The video feed is smooth as silk while performing these operations, and an operator can use the somewhat clunky Control Center application, an Xbox Controller, or a dedicated hardware controller from Panasonic.
You can also set a multitude of presets that adjust the PTZ settings of the camera to a pre-defined setting. For a remote worker, you could have a setting for a typical conferencing shot, a setting that adjusts the camera to where you could deliver a standing presentation, and a setting that zooms in on a whiteboard in your office. With a quick tap you can replicate the functionality of multiple cameras. Since control and video are both delivered over a standard IP network, you could also send a “traveling camera” to key executives and act as a remote broadcast operator to up the quality of key executive presentations. Intriguingly, the NBA used similar cameras to do exactly that–essentially setting up remote broadcasting capabilities in the NBA Bubble during the 2020 season.
At a retail price around $2,000, and requiring some video, networking, and technical knowhow to get working, something like the AW-HN38 may seem excessive. However, that $2,000 is equivalent to a few designer outfits, and the ability to deliver broadcast-grade video of multiple locations could be a game changer for remote workers who need more than a stationary webcam.
It might seem a touch narcissistic to spend large sums of money and time on setting up a high-end video feed for the seemingly mundane task of working from home, but just like the power suit, it may be the visual “exclamation point” to your message that wins the deal, convinces the board, or just gives you that extra bit of confidence.
Open source magic solves a months-long problem in 20 minutes
Commentary: Capventis and other system integrators increasingly depend on open source to help them solve critical enterprise IT issues.
As more enterprises lurch towards digital transformation and cloud-native architectures, accelerated by the urgency of business changes during the COVID pandemic, many depend on systems integrators (SIs) for help. If you look under the hood of most successful digital initiatives created by SIs (or any company), you’ll find the engine involves a great deal of open source software (up to 90%, according to Sonatype data).
This rush towards digital transformation preceded the pandemic, of course, as enterprises also saw the need to move faster in their markets and accelerate the introduction of new technologies. But SIs have become key partners in driving open source deeper into enterprise IT, with projects like GraphDB increasingly important to solve data integration issues. Capventis offers a good example of how this works.
SEE: Research: Digital transformation plans shift due to COVID-19 (TechRepublic)
Every industry is trying to get to the future as fast as possible, and telecommunications is no different. As Iain Morris called out in a Light Reading article, in 2018 France’s Orange estimated that a third of its global workforce–more than 50,000 employees–needed reskilling if the company hoped to keep up with cloud vendors. In that same article, Morris pointed out that Spain’s Telefonica figured it would need nearly $2 billion in staff training and early retirement buyouts to bring in new talent with new skills to be competitive.
Such telcos often turn to SIs, like UK-based Capventis, who in turn bring domain expertise and work primarily with clients in the Business Intelligence (BI), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Customer Experience (CX) fields. These areas haven’t traditionally been ripe for open source, but even SIs with these focus areas rely on open source software to help their clients. It’s hard for even the best proprietary software vendors to keep pace with the innovation cycles of successful open source projects; so, these SIs will partner with companies like Alteryx, Qlik, Qualtrics, and Zendesk, augmenting their proprietary software with open source expertise.
In the case of Capventis, a big part of its projects involves pulling vast quantities of legacy and real-time data for its clients. It reminds me of a conversation from a decade ago with MuleSoft creator Ross Mason, who had started his career with an SI. He created MuleSoft (then called MuleSource) as something like an enterprise service bus to move lots of data around and connect it to an application or service. He kept having to do the same thing–moving lots of data–over and over for his clients, and he described it as “donkey work.” So he wrote MuleSource, which eventually ended up being acquired by Salesforce for more than $6 billion.
Today, Capventis faces the same challenges but at a larger scale, as data volume, variety, and velocity grow exponentially. “A client might have Zendesk for tickets and rely on Qualtrics for surveys,” said Mike Hawkes, CTO of Capventis. “But they all rest on a giant old Oracle database. There are typically many legacy systems that need to interact but none have a connector. And those that do have connectors don’t handle maintaining integrity between various systems.”
Capventis wrote its own data stack to manage this variety of data and integrations, giving it the appropriate name of Glü. But the company also needed some open source magic.
Integrating data the open source way
Across its client base, Capventis increasingly faced challenges with the limitations of SQL in scale-out, integration projects using legacy SQL databases with tabular structures that required large numbers of joins to integrate disparate data sources. After Capventis won a major UK government project, it struggled with how to integrate several older, proprietary databases that were still in production and being regularly updated with new information. The database project involved multiple departments that over time had merged and separated and merged again. What should have been a dozen tables had exploded into more than 300. The legacy database providers refused to collaborate on the project.
SEE: How to build a successful developer career (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
Stymied, Capventis reached into its open source software bag of tricks. Based on the scale and scope of the project, the team wanted a GraphQL-based interface with a flexible, reliable, and high-performance graph database on the backend.
For this project, Capventis selected GraphDB from Dgraph Labs after an internal technology bake-off. Dgraph outperformed the others and had the added advantage of a global developer community that the company found to be responsive and friendly. (I’ve written about Dgraph before.) The Capventis team used Dgraph to convert all the legacy data from multiple sources and cleansed it on the fly with no data loss, while simultaneously generating a schema read for immediate queries.
“We linked Glü to their database servers, fetched all the data, and threw it into Dgraph,” Hawkes said. “Within 20 minutes we had the entire structure of the data set with all the proper interactions captured in Dgraph. We solved this problem in one hit. It was months in the planning and minutes in the execution.”
That’s the power of open source.
Disclosure: I work for AWS, but the views expressed herein are mine.
Diamonds may help measuring thermal conductivity in living cells
Scientists have very precise instruments, but measuring properties of tiny little cells is still very difficult. Now researchers at the University of Queensland have developed a new tool to measure heat transfer inside living cells. It includes actual diamonds and it can work as both a heater and a thermometre. Someday it can improve cancer diagnosis.
Cancer cells are different – they behave differently and exhibit different properties. Scientists have long speculated that in some cases precisely targeted thermal therapies could be very effective against cancer. However, in order for this to become reality scientists needed to know thermal conductivity of living cells. With current technology it is literally impossible to measure thermal conductivity – the rate that heat can flow through an object if one side is hot and another is cold – inside of such tiny living things as cells.
Scientists from Australia, Japan and Singapore now employed nanodiamonds (just tiny little diamonds) to act as minute sensors in a new system. Diamonds are great, because they are very hard and because they are just a different form of carbon, which is very well-known to us. Scientists coated their nanodiamonds with a special heat-releasing polymer. This resulted in a sensor, which can act as a heater or a thermometre, depending on what kind of laser light is applied. This sensor allows measuring thermal conductivity in living cells with a resolution of 200 nanometres.
Associate Professor Taras Plakhotnik, lead author of the study, said that this new method already revealed some new interesting information about cells. He said: “We found that the rate of heat diffusion in cells, as measured in our experiments, was several times slower than in pure water, for example.”
If cancer cells and healthy cells exhibit different thermal conductivity, this kind of measurement could become a very precise diagnostic technique. Also, because these particles are not toxic and can be used in living cells, scientists think they could open the door for improving heat-based treatments for cancer. Measuring head conductivity could help monitor biochemical reactions in real time in the cell. But that’s not all. Scientists think that this method could lead to a better understanding of metabolic disorders, such as obesity.
Diamonds are commonly used in science and industry. People oftentimes see them as something from the jewelry world, but they are much more common elsewhere. And they are not even that expensive. Hopefully, this study will result in a new method to research living cells and maybe some novel therapies as well.
Source: University of Queensland
Redmi Note 10 Launch Teased Officially After Rumours Tipping February Debut in India
Redmi Note 10 launch has been officially teased on Weibo. The new development comes just weeks after the rumour mill suggested the existence of the Redmi Note 10 series that could include the Redmi Note 10, the Redmi Note 10 Pro, and the Redmi Note 10 Pro 5G. The new series is expected to succeed the Redmi Note 9 family that debuted with the launch of the Redmi Note 9 Pro and the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max in India in March last year.
Redmi General Manager Lu Weibing has teased the launch of the Redmi Note 10 on Weibo. Instead of giving away details of the phone directly, Weibing has posted an image of the Redmi Note 9 4G asking users about their expectations with the Redmi Note 10.
The Redmi Note 10 is speculated to launch in India alongside the Redmi Note 10 Pro in February. Both phones will be priced aggressively, according to tipster Ishan Agarwal. The Redmi Note 10 in the series is tipped to come in Gray, Green, and White colour options.
Although Xiaomi hasn’t provided any specifics about the phone yet, the Redmi Note 10 Pro 5G purportedly received a certification from the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) earlier this month. The phone is also said to have surfaced on the US
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website with the model number M2101K6G. It has also reportedly appeared on the websites of other regulatory bodies including the European Economic Commission (EEC), Singapore’s IMDA, and Malaysia’s MCMC.
Redmi Note 10 series specifications (expected)
The Redmi Note 10 Pro is rumoured to come with a 120Hz display and include the Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G SoC. However, the 5G variant of the Redmi Note 10 Pro is said to come with the Snapdragon 750G SoC. It is speculated to have 6GB and 8GB RAM options as well as 64GB and 128GB storage versions. The Redmi Note 10 Pro models will come with a 64-megapixel primary camera sensor and include a 5,050mAh battery, according to a recent report.
Similar to the Redmi Note 10 Pro models, the Redmi Note 10 is also rumoured to have both 4G and 5G versions. The smartphone is tipped to have a 48-megapixel primary camera sensor and include a 6,000mAh battery.
The Redmi Note 10 Pro and the Redmi Note 10 are both expected to run on Android 11 with MIUI 12 out-of-the-box.
What will be the most exciting tech launch of 2021? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.
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