GoPro Hero Camera

I recently bought a 5MP GoPro Hero Helmet Camera - Amazon had the best price at around $190. Loaded with a cheap 2Gb SD card, I was hoping to get some fun shots when I’m snowboarding, mountain biking or driving one of the Land Rovers somewhere interesting (unless anyone wants shots of I-25 every morning). 


  • Model Number: GHHW5170
  • Resolution: 5 megapixel (2592x1944) photo, 512x384 video
  • Sensor: CMOS
  • Video Format: MJPEG, 30 fps, saved as .AVI file
  • Optics: glass lens, f/2.8 aperture, with ultra-wide 170º angle of view
  • Modes: video, standard photo, photo every 2 or 5 secs, 3x photo burst sequence, self timer, upside down photo/video flip
  • Exposure Control: auto
  • White Balance: auto
  • Self Timer: 10 seconds
  • Microphone: built-in with adjustable recording/input level
  • Audio Format: 8kHz, mono
  • Memory: 16 MB internal, expandable to 2GB with SD card (not included), expandable to 4GB with SDHC card (not included) via free software download from GoPro website—available soon
  • Capacity: 56 minutes video (incl. audio) or 1,945 photos with optional 2GB SD card. 1hr 52min video (incl. audio) with optional 4GB SDHC card—available soon
  • Power: 2x AAA batteries (not included), lithium batteries highly recommended. 3hrs. video recording with lithium, 2hrs. with NiMH
  • TV Out (with RCA cable): NTSC or PAL
  • PC Connection: USB + RCA combo cable
  • PC Compatibility: Windows ME, 2000, XP, and Vista; Mac OS X 10.2 and later
  • Waterproof: rated to 100 feet/30 meters
  • Dimensions: 1.75” x 2.30” x 1.25”/4.45cm x 5.84cm x 3.18cm (H x W x D)
  • Weight: 4.9 oz/139 g

I took it our for a test run today, I was snowboarding in Breckenridge. In summary, it’s an acceptable camera as long as you’re just after snapshots, or need a camera to go somewhere hazardous where you wouldn’t take your D-SLR, for example. I had to explain what it was and how it worked to about ten people today. GoPro should hang-out at the resorts, I think they’d sell a boatload. 


  • It’s cheap
  • It’s small and lightweight
  • It seems robust
  • It takes a lot of images
  • Once started, you can forget about it
  • The images are acceptable for web use


  • The images are only acceptable for web use
  • The sharpness of the lens isn’t great
  • There’s no way to compensate for exposure (or, at least, I’ve not found a way)
  • In video mode, the camera is hunting for the correct exposure continuously, which is very distracting to watch
  • I find the interface a little non-intuitive, and it’s a pain to remember if it’s on or off



Here’s an example video I shot. Checkout the exposure which is all over the place. To be fair, most cameras have a problem exposing correctly for snow, but I though the hunting was a bit too much. 


GoPro Hero Helmet Camera Test from Nick Taylor on Vimeo.


I also uploaded some test images to flickr. Here are some of them (click on the image through to flickr). 


This image shows the detail around the clouds but also shows the underexposure because of the bright snow.

Breckenridge - GoPro Helmet Hero Wide camera test



Here’s the same image, tweaked in Aperture to correct the exposure.

Breckenridge - GoPro Helmet Hero Wide camera test



This next image shows the color definition (unretouched). It’s also a good example of how the lens falls off in sharpness at the edges, best viewed on the original image

Breckenridge - GoPro Helmet Hero Wide camera test



Another example of the falloff in image clarity at the edges (best seen on the original image).

Breckenridge - GoPro Helmet Hero Wide camera test



Finally, here’s another unretouched image showing how wide the 170 degreee lens is - the bar is the edge of the chairlift. 

Breckenridge - GoPro Helmet Hero Wide camera test

Media Temple: Moving WordPress and MediaWiki From (Gs) to (Dv)

I’ve reached the point where I’ve outgrown the Media Temple (referral link) (gs) gridservice offering and have migrated to a (dv) dedicated virtual plan. My primary reasons were increased scalability, performance and flexibility. I’ve read some negative comments about Media Temple, but I’ve been with them for 3 years and had no problems, other than the occasional slowness. Their customer service has always been responsive and helpful. 

I have a number of sites hosted on the (gs), including WordPress and MediaWiki sites with MySQL databases, some of them are mine and some below to third parties. 

(dv) comes with a Plesk front-end management tool, which is ok, but the first thing I did was enable ssh access as I prefer the extra flexibility that hands-on environment gives you. Though I did spend the afternoon familiarizing myself with the Plesk environment and I like it well enough.

There are a few caveats when moving WordPress to a new site. I also changed the domains, and that added some extra complexity. I moved:

I got rid of the leading hostnames mainly to simplify my environment and it also aids SEO

These are some of the things you should watch for:

  • The backup and restore of the database didn’t work well and I didn’t have much confidence in it. (mt) have a KnowledgeBase article on the subject. I used the command line to backup the databases like this:
    • $ mysqldump --add-drop-table -u Username -p dbname > dbname.sql
  • And restored them like this:
    • $ mysql -u Username -p dbname < dbname.sql
  • As I’ve moved domains, the databases needed some work to fix links. I found an article that was of help, but what you basically do is
    • update the wp_options table with:
      • UPDATE wp_options SET option_value = replace(option_value, 'http://OLDURL', 'http://NEWURL') WHERE option_name = 'home' OR option_name = 'siteurl';
    • update the references to absolute URLs:
      • UPDATE wp_posts SET guid = replace(guid, 'http://OLDURL','http://NEWURL');
    • update the posts that reference other posts on the site:
      • UPDATE wp_posts SET post_content = replace(post_content, 'http://OLDURL', 'http://NEWURL');
  • As I changed domain names, the permalinks broke. Make the .htaccess file writeable and in wp-admin/settings/permalinks hit “save changes” to regenerate the permalinks. If you have a problem here, it’ll probably be down to the .htaccess file either not existing or not being writable. 
  • WordPress on (dv) requires the permissions on the wp-content/uploads directory to be 777, or you have problems adding to your media library. There may be a better way of doing this, but after spending a couple of hours I decided it was good enough. You also have to either edit the wp_options table in the database or simply change the settings/misc uploads setting in WordPress admin to be “wp-content/uploads” (note there’s no leading “/”). There are a lot of threads on the (mt) forums discussing this, this is the most relevant one. The WordPress forums also discuss this problem
  • Also to allow successful uploads to your media library, PHP safe-mode has to be “off” as the httpd server and filesystem permissions are different. The easiest way to change this setting is via the Plesk control panel, but you can also edit /etc/php.ini
  • I had some non-WordPress files, mostly images, on the old sites, so I used .htaccess to redirect to the new locations, specifically for links to files and images I’ve been posting to forums for years, and didn’t want them to break. For example, redirects to
  • I use the WordPress Database Backup plugin, and it needed a new backup directory to be created in wp-content and made writable. 
  • I noticed that the WordPress Automatic Upgrade and the automatic plugin upgrades now require an ftp username and password. 
  • I setup MediaWiki to use short URLs, like Wikipedia, (aka removing “index.php” from the URL) in line with best practices for forming URLs using this method
  • Also for the codex exerro”, I only allowed authorized users to read pages using this method
  • I temporarily disabled account creation by adding ”$wgGroupPermissions['*']['createaccount'] = false;” to  LocalSettings.php

I’m still wondering whether or not to use Drupal instead of MediaWiki for both the “codex exerro” and a private wiki I’m building. Drupal has more flexibility in terms of user rights management (or is at least simpler than MediaWiki) and managing content (unsurprisingly as it is a Content Management System), but doesn’t look as good out of the box and is more complex to setup and maintain.

Anyway, it took around a day to migrate half a dozen sites and databases. I’m looking forward to pushing (dv) to see what it’s got!

2009 Is the Year for ZFS

ZFS will come of age in 2009.

In 2008, I had to explain what ZFS was and why it’s different to the existing volume/filesystem model. By the end of 2009, IT Pros will all be aware of it, what it does and will likely have at least a little of it in their production infrastructure. Sun has already started that ball rolling.

Heck, with full-blown support of ZFS likely to be in OSX 10.6, “Snow Leopard”, it’ll even make in-roads to the home-market. Or course, if Apple announce a ZFS-based upgraded Time Capsule/Home Server at MacWorld ExPo tomorrow that’ll happen sooner.

From a capacity perspective, with 2TB or greater drives being the de-facto standard capacity by the end of 2009 (compared with 1TB today), the growth of all types of media; including photographs, personal video and the increasing availability of internet-distributed hi-def content, coupled with the pack-rat nature of most of us (me included), demand for storage capacity has never been higher. It’ll also push the more mainstream storage user towards the 10-12TB Unrecoverable Read Error issue , aka known as the death of RAID5

To deal with increasing capacity and the straight line graph of bit-error rates, drive manufacturers keep making their drives smarter to handle errors and attempt to minimize data loss. This is the wrong approach, but it’s unavoidable as otherwise they commoditize themselves further. Drives should be stupid and let something further up the stack manage this. That something is ZFS.

Of course, this mostly applies to cheaper SATA drives. The more expensive UltraSCSI and SAS commanded a premium for performance and reliability. Move reliability into the filesystem and you’re just paying a premium for performance. Obviously, some need the performance which is why these drives and ancillary equipment and technologies like Fibre Channel will stay around, but I think it’s worth considering if you really need that CLARiiON or Symmetrix

Drobo Update - PSU Problem

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve had problems with my 2nd generation Drobo. I’m not the only one.

I have to say, Valorie in Drobo tech support did a great job handling my case. It seems that it may be a PSU problem (yes, just like my Lacie drives!). Both the Drobo and the Lacies come with cheap Chinese-made PSUs.

Drobo PSU details

As you can see from the photo, it should be capable of outputting 6.7A at 12V. My multimeter said 12.36V, though I’ve no way of measuring the current draw when active. Drobo support said that the 1TB Hitachi Ultrastar HUA721010KLA330 drives are a known “power hog”. The drive itself states a current draw of 850mA (I have 2 installed, the other 2 are 750GB Seagate Barracuda ES ST3750640NS, with a stated draw of 520mA, so there could be some truth in that. If this is the case, I know from personal experience that it’s possible for multiple restarts to corrupt volume information resulting in data being lost.

They are sending me a new PSU, so we’ll know soon enough.

ZFS Server Specs

I’ve done some research over the past few days and have pulled together a component list for building my home-based ZFS NAS server. I’ve made the list available via Google Docs, click here for the full version.

I’ve not had time to jot down my reasoning behind this, but in summary this configuration gives me the capacity I need now, room for future expansion, fits into my rack at home, and is (almost) in budget.

Antenna Cabling Components

I’ve mentioned this before, but now I’ve almost completed the antennas and cabling from my shack in the basement to the Diamond X6000A on the roof, the Diamond X50A in the attic, and the yet to be installed Alpha Delta DX-EE. This should give me good coverage from 40m up to 23cm.

I really like the Times Microwave products, and the connectors work well with their cabling, obviously. I’ve used LMR-400 [LMR-400 specs - PDF] and LMR-400 Ultraflex [LMR-400-UF specs - PDF] for VHF/UHF and I use Belden 8267 for HF. The connectors I’ve used are the TC-400-NMC N-connector [TC-400-NMC - PDF] and the EZ-400-UM PL-259 connector [EZ-400-UM - PDF]

I usually source cabling from Ham Radio Outlet and get the Times connectors from Hutton Communications.

New Wordpress Theme for Exerro Too!

Today was a day for new Wordpress templates! As I upgraded blog. to the grid-focus theme, I was in the mood to continue and upgrade my travel blog theme. I wanted a different look and feel from this blog, and one that would exhibit photographs well on the front page. I found the theme I was looking for with ”Modularity” from Graphpaper Press. I kept a copy of the instructions available. screenshot

See it in action for yourself over at (alas, retired in December 2011)!

New Wordpress Theme for Indigoprime

I’ve been happy with the Hemingway-based Ninja-Monkeys theme, and I still use it over at my professional blog. Here’s what it looked like:

blog. screenshot from December 2008

As you can see, it’s a little bland, but perfect for text-heavy sites. Also, on the front/index page, there were problems with embedded elements and graphics spilling-over into the next column - it looked ugly. 

Lately, I’ve been wanting to add more, larger photos in-line in blog posts and I’m embedding more video.

So I hunted around for a new theme. I liked the prophoto themes, but thought they were expensive. Graphpaper Press has some wonderful themes, and in fact I may use one of theme over at my (now offline) travel blog -, but they are also a paid-for commercial product (they are however, exactly what I’m looking for when we travel).

I was happy when I found Derek Punsalan’s site over at He has a couple of free themes, including the highly visual unstandard theme, and the one I settled on, grid-focus

Grid-focus enables me to have large graphics and embeds in the post, up to 700px across (I edited the .css file to get more width here at the expense of deleting the third column). This shows off graphics well and eliminates the the problem of overlap between posts. 

I think it looks great, don’t you?

[Slideshow] Northwest Africa Trip 2000

A trip by Land Rover through Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania in 2000.

Northwest Africa Trip, 2000 from Nick Taylor on Vimeo.

Fscking Storage!

Alright. I’ve had enough.

I’m a reasonably demanding home storage user, I guess I have around 3 TB of data and 4-5 TB of capacity at home. Photos take up close to 1TB, I’ve a lot of my own video, transcoded video, and music.

RAID Grave

I’ve tried all sorts of solutions - external drives, Infrant (now NetGear) ReadyNAS, Drobo, etc. They all have their shortcomings. My Drobo, with over a TB of data let go. My ReadYNAS 600 died of old age (it was sad to see it go). Playing with multiple 1TB external drives is fragile and stressful. All of these products (except the ReadyNAS) are black boxes, the most status you get is a green LED or no mounted volume. At least the ReadyNAS has a MIB available, and I’ve used Nagios to monitor my ReadyNAS NV:


I’d also been thinking about failure, and I’ve had controller failures, PSU failures, disk failures; and it occurred to me that even RAID5 may not cut it. It seems I’m not alone in thinking this, and I found that Robin Harris over at had been thinking this since July 2007. He also thought some more about disk reliability. I also like Joerg Moellenkamp’s presentation about the end of RAID5.

Feeling validated in my concerns, I decided to brainstorm a little and decided I need to have a storage facility to provide the following:

Fast response and transfer time; simply locate it on my GigE LAN at home. Around 12TB storage, expandable Rack-mountable Open Operating System Very configurable Monitorable The ability to support something more reliable than RAID5. Be affordable, budget around $2k

There’s only one thing that meets all these criteria, I have to build my own ZFS Server.


By the way, fsck is not a rude word!