Playing With Intel’s 3D Camera with RealSense Technology

Intel kindly provided me with a Intel® RealSense™ Camera (R200) Developer Kit to muck around with. It was my job to work out what to do with it!

3D cameras have been around for a while, but Intel has continued to invest in this technology for several reasons. A RealSense camera is actually made up of three cameras acting together – a 1080p HD camera, an infrared camera, and an infrared laser projector.

The normal 1080p camera is for capturing the actual images you’re seeing, just like any other camera. As I understand it, the infrared camera picks up infrared light being broadcast by another part of the RealSense camera, in a mesh series of dots – which then measures the distances and surfaces between those dots to work out. A 3D mesh can be worked out based on this, which can then be used to fully render objects in 3D. Intel have some information that will give you an idea on this.

There’s a few free bits of software that can be downloaded for the camera I was provided, one of them being itSeez3D Scanner. By pointing the camera at someone (or something) and walking around them, you can create a 3D model of the whole person, or just their bust. Of course I had to have a 3D scan of myself:

Weird but very cool! Soon you’ll be able to send off your 3D scan, and get back a 3D printout of yourself.

This sort of technology leads to some pretty amazing and novel things. You can put your face in a game, such as NBA 2K16. Scanning in an object, and then sending it off or having a local 3D printer to make a copy of it has a lot of implications for the way we think about doing things.

The accuracy of these sort of cameras leads to Windows Hello which uses all these technologies to make sure it’s you looking at the camera of your PC to unlock it, rather than a 2D photo of yourself which can trick 2D cameras.

Another cool thing I found was the Chroma app which scans a person, and lets you replace the background with something else. Again I had to test this:

One idea would be to take a photo of your office, and if you’re actually at the beach, make it look like you’re at your desk 🙂

This particular camera didn’t support Windows Hello, otherwise I would have played with that too.

The Intel RealSense Camera should be turning up in more PC devices as well as tablets, so keep an eye on this space for a lot more awesome ways people come up with to use this technology.

Fix Wrong Domain for Users Azure Active Directory

I ran into a problem where a user couldn’t sign into Intune, which uses Azure Active Directory to authenticate users.

After checking the user in question on the Azure Active Directory portal, I noticed the domain was wrong:

aad

The user was being synced from On Premise Active Directory, so I had a look via Users and Computers to see what was going on. The user’s User Principal Name domain field was set differently to other users – instead of the proper mydomain.com, it was set to mydomain.local – another valid internal domain to Active Directory, but not one that Azure Active Directory knew about:

aad2

The unknown domain caused Azure Active Directory to disregard it, and instead use it’s default tennancy domain of wrong.onmicrosoft.com. I thought just changing the dropdown menu to mydomain.com instead of mydomain.local would fix it, but a forced Azure Active Directory Sync sync reported the change was successfully synced, but didn’t actually change the value.

I’m going to guess this is by design, as you don’t usually want logins changing. There is an easy way to change the via PowerShell instead.

Once you’ve run the standard ‘Connect-MsolLService‘ cmdlet, you can use ‘Set-MsolUserPrincipalName‘ to change the user. The full command is:

Set-MSolUserPrincilapName – userprincipalname “existinguser@mydomain.local” -NewUserPrincipalName “existinguser@mydomain.com”

Pretty simple, and the change is immediate.

I then realised there may be other users with the same problem, so dediced to use the Active Directory PowerShell Module with this command:

get-aduser -filter * | where {$_.userprincipalname -like “*local*” -and $_.enabled -eq “true”} | select name

This showed all the users who had ‘local’ in their UPN. As there were only a few, I changed them all one by one with the first command above.

The same check can be run against Azure Active Directory users with this command:

get-msoluser -all | where userprincipalname -like “*local*”

Easy!

Your Personal Information Has Been Leaked

Opinion: The below is all my personal opinion, and although any company examples I give are true, this cannot be taken as 100% guaranteed evidence of a data leak.

Yep, you read the heading correct. If you’ve been online and signed up to even a handful of services, chances are some of your data has been stolen.

Troy Hunt’s website https://haveibeenpwned.com/ hosts some details on many millions of records that have been leaked one way or another from companies such as Adobe, Sony and Yahoo. Those are just known leaks though, where the data has been made publically available one way or another, and is only a snippet of what’s really out there.

How do I know this with such conviction? I’ve signed up to a LOT of things over the years, and using my methodology, each signup has a unique email address.

That unique email address per service gives me a pretty quick insight into who’s somehow lost my data. On a daily basis, I can have a look around my Google Apps spam folder, and see what email addresses were used to send spam to.

Often I’ll see the same email 15-20 times, sent to different email addresses on my domain. That’s pretty clear these spammers are finding multiple chunks of breached data, because my different email addresses aren’t going to be registered to a single site.

Today’s spam had the local part of the email address (the bit before the @) in the subject too, so here you can see what these emails were sent to:

spam

I tend to see a mix of gibberish (such as asYOyuPq) and leaked emails. In this example chunk of spam, there’s Adobe – which I know was leaked as confirmed on haveibeenpwned, but there’s also plenty of other worrying ones. Penguin is from Penguin Books Australia, Dropbox is obvious, Coles, Dell, and others.

Looking down my list in the last few days, I can see others like fringebenefits – an Adelaide Fringe run discount tickets I signed up to a couple of years ago. Viator, a service I booked a tourist attraction on when visiting the US a few years ago.

Then there’s ebay – that one I don’t know so well, because email addresses get passed around when you buy and sell things through a platform. Maybe I contacted a seller and they had my email address because of that, and was lost from there.  Acertabletforum from a few years ago when I downloaded custom ROMS for an Acer Android tablet. Umart, from when I bought some PC components a few years ago too. 

At this stage, you might be wondering how I know the problem isn’t me. As I said, I’ve signed up for probably thousands of services over the years, and continually only see a subset of addresses that get spam. If I was leaking the data somehow, I should see a big mix of everything I’ve used, or at least everything up to a certain point in time. This is definitely not the case.

On top of all these email addresses, I have no idea what other data was leaked with them. My name, date of birth, first pet’s name, my home address? I can’t remember which services required which pieces of info, nor will most of these data leaks ever be publicly known – so I have no idea.

I don’t know what the answer is to all of this. I called out one company recently asking if they had a data breach, as I started to get spam on the email address I’d signed up to their online store with, which resulted in them calling my personal mobile phone, finding me on Facebook, naming my wife and son to me and threatening to send friends around to my place of residence, which he had obtained from my domain registrar details. This happened 2 years after I explicitly requested the company delete all my details, which I happened to blog about here.

It’s a pretty sorry state of affairs, and I don’t see anything getting better soon. If you want real privacy, use a fake name, a PO box, a pre-paid mobile phone and so on – because as soon as you hand your details out to someone, the world’s going to know about it.

Thanks to Troy Hunt for giving me the idea to write this up.

Oppo R7s Android Phone Review

20160421_165037

Oppo. I’ve never heard of them before, but they’re a Chinese electronics manufacturer, if their Wikipedia page is to be believed. I was in the market for a cheap but decent Android phone, which doesn’t seem to be a common combination – you can either have cheap, or decent.

Luckily for me, I wandered into a Dick Smith store closing down and saw a few Oppo R7s’s in the cabinet:


20160421_144422Bargain!

After googling for a bit and seeing some positive reviews, I decided to go for it, at that bargain price of $317.40AU and I was impressed with the device contained within.

Opening up the box was a standard affair, with the handset itself, SIM card metal pokey device, USB cable and charger, headphones – and surprisingly, a clear soft plastic case. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a phone come with a case!

20160421_165143 20160421_165223Oppo R7s box contents

Specs

This is a pretty beefy phone. From Oppo’s website:

Dimensions/Weight
Height 151.8 mm
Width 75.4 mm
Thickness 6.95 mm
Weight 155g
Basic Parameters
Color Golden, Rose Gold
Operating System ColorOS 2.1, based on Android 5.1
GPU Adreno 405
RAM 4GB
Storage 32GB (Expandable up to 128GB)
Battery Typical Capacity: 3070 mAh (Non-removable)
Processor Qualcomm MSM8939 Octa-core
Display
Size 5.5 inches
Type AMOLED
Resolution Full HD (1920 by 1080 pixels)
Colors 16 million colors
Touchscreen Multi-touch, Capacitive Screen, Gorilla Glass 4
Support for Gloved and Wet Touch Input
Camera
Main Sensor 13-megapixel
Front Sensor 8-megapixel
Flash LED Flash
Aperture Rear: f/2.2
Sec: f/2.4
Other Features 720p/ 1080p videos
Connectivity
Frequencies International Version:
GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100MHz
LTE Bands 1/3/5/7/8/20/TD-40
Taiwan Version:
GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100MHz
LTE Bands 1/3/5/7/8/28/TD-38/39/40/41
US Version:
GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100MHz
LTE Bands 1/2/4/7/17
SIM Card Type Dual-SIM: Micro-SIM Card and Nano-SIM Card
GPS Supported
Bluetooth 4
Wi-Fi 2.4/5GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
OTG Supported
NFC No
Sensors
Distance sensor
Light sensor
G-sensor
E-compass
In The Box
OPPO R7s
In-ear type earphones
Micro USB cable
VOOC Flash Charger mini
SIM ejector tool
Documentation
Case

4GB of RAM and a nice Octa-core CPU make this a pretty high end phone. The screen is AMOLED which makes is very pretty to look at, and a 1080p resolution is enough for a 5.5″ screen in my opinion.

It’s running ‘ColorOS’ which is a modified version of Android. That normally is a bad thing, as manufacturers seem to bloat and slow down the user experience, but I found it really snappy to use.

20160421_165638ColorOS

The battery isn’t removable, but is easily big enough for a day’s usage.

There’s also VOOC Flash Charge – this gives you a really quick charging capability. If you use the charger and cable that comes with the phone, you can charge for 2 minutes to get 2 hours of talking mode power. 30 minutes of charge will give you 75% of your battery back, which is really impressive. You can still use a standard MicroUSB charger for slower charging times, so you don’t need to change over all your existing cables.

Another nifty feature of the R7s is the dual SIM option. You can either have two different SIMs in the device, or use one of the slots for added memory via a MicroSD card. A cool option I thought.

 
20160422_082841
Oppo R7s Main Screen

I *really* like this phone. Compared to my Samsung Galaxy S6, I like this MORE, and it cost almost 1/4 of the price on sale. Even not on sale, it’s half the price. It’s snappy to use, there’s no bloatware from Oppo that I can see – they have designed this as a lightweight, easy to use Android phone with some cool features. The camera is really good too. I’m not sure there’s anything better about my Samsung Galaxy S6 compared to this. It feels nice to hold, is light and thin.

If you want a bigger screen, there’s the almost identical Oppo R7 plus which has a 6″ screen rather than 5.5″ and only costs a little more.

I can’t fault it, so if you’re in the market for an Android phone, this is worth checking out!

Fitbit Blaze Review

download

Preface: I’m looking at this device from a smartwatch point of view, as I’m not a fitness buff in any sense. If you want to know about the FitBit Blaze from a non-fitness person’s point of view, please read on!

Smartwatches. I love the idea of them, a quicker way of seeing information you’d normally need to get by taking your phone out of your pocket. Yet, I dislike the general implementations of any smartwatch I’ve tried: their features, price point, lack of battery life and the annoyance of having them ‘in the way’ of being able to look at my wrist to tell the time.

I’ve reviewed the Samsung Gear 2 previously, and since then tried an original Microsoft Band. They fit into my above description, where I’m hoping the technology and design improves enough to meet my expectations.

While Smartwatches were adapting, so were fitness bands. They seemed to start out as ‘dumb’ devices where a digital watch with a heart rate monitor was considered high end. Those have come along way, with Fitbit and Garmin leading the pack.

Fitbit however (like Microsoft and others), seem to be blending the two devices together into one. Part fitness with step counts, heart rates, GPS and a bunch of other fitness junkie options, as well as phone notifications and music control.

One of Fitbit’s latest releases is the Fitbit Blaze, which seemed to tick a lot of boxes for me personally (aka ‘the stuff I care about’):

  • Battery life: lasts up to 5 days
  • Notifications: Text and call via Bluetooth 4.0
  • Syncs with Windows Vista and later, Mac OS X 10.6 and up, iPhone 4S and later, iPad 3 gen. and later, and leading Android and Windows devices (i.e. all the things)
  • Charge time: One to two hours
  • Fitbit Blaze is sweat, rain and splash proof
  • Sleep Tracking
  • Touch screen
  • Color LCD

This gives us a device that can last for days, charges relatively quickly (charging while getting ready in the morning daily would cover it), provides useful information I care about in a non-bulky form factor, and I can use it on whatever device I’m currently on.

First Setup

When you first power on the FitBit Blaze, you will see a single prompt asking you to set it up by going to a URL fitbit.com/setup. Somehow through black magic I assume, you can install the app on your mobile device of choice and it will detect your watch, ready to be configured. The black magic part is that you don’t configure any connections. Nothing, it just knows you’re near an unconfigured watch. I don’t know if it’s GPS or just seeing the watch broadcasting it’s Bluetooth availability, but whatever they’re doing, it works and is a well designed setup process.

That is, until I tried to do it on Windows Phone 8.1 care of a Lumia 640 XL. Please see my rant* at the bottom of this post for further details, it’s frustrating enough that on this issue alone I wouldn’t touch a FitBit again.

After using an Android phone instead, the above setup process was what I experienced, which was the great experience I’d hoped for. The setup process from the app side asks for your basic information, such as sex, age and weight to make calculations around step count and other nifty functions

Hardware

Technical specifications like CPU don’t matter when a product has it’s own OS – it’s how it works, and the experience that matters. I’ll cover function rather than under the hood here.

Firstly, they’ve designed the watch face so it pops out, by pushing it inward. I thought this would be a benefit due to not having to take the band off, but it’s too tricky to do. The watch itself is quite comfortable to wear and doesn’t feel like it sticks out or has weird lumps. It’s also very light, lighter than my metal analog watch, so there’s no weight concern.

20160429_092442
Fitbit Blaze on Wrist (Hairy arm not included)

The popped off watch face can then be inserted into the dock for charging:

20160429_090727Watch face docked

That system seems to work pretty well – I don’t know if the clipping in and out daily of the watch face will eventually wear the plastic that holds it in, but you’ll probably throw it in the bin due to being obsolete before that happens.

The back of the watch has the standard sensors for heart rate (apparently detecting the volume of blood) which emit green beams of light:

20160429_092801
Underside of FitBit Blaze

The band itself is upgradable, since it’s just a chassis for the watch face. The one that comes with it doesn’t feel premium, but also doesn’t feel cheap, so I see no reason to swap it out.

Buttons and Touch

There’s 3 buttons on the watch, one on the left and two on the right. The left is a ‘back’ button, while the top right is ‘action’ and the bottom right ‘select’. I haven’t really worked out what ‘action’ does, as normally I’m just using the touchscreen or the back button. Pressing it on several menus did nothing.

The touch interface is amply responsive, doesn’t feel laggy, and seems to accurately detect where you’re pressing.

Also, the screen goes off when you’re not using it. To bring it to life, you need the motion option enabled (which is annoying in bed at night when the room lights up because you turned over), or by pressing any button. I’d prefer a low energy constant output of the time, like the Microsoft Lumia phones have.. but then we wouldn’t have 5 days battery life. Still, I’d like the option.

Menu Options on Watch

There’s a few different watch interfaces you can choose from the Fitbit app, and when I say few, there was about 3 from memory. Not a huge choice. Beyond the default time screen there’s:

Today – shows you all your stats for the day such as steps, fat burn, distance walked, calories and floors (as in, how many floors you’ve walked up)

Exercise – A set of exercise options that will track what you do while running, biking, doing weights etc. Suffice to say I haven’t tested these.

Fitstar – Your watch will tell you what to do, and take you through a workout routine. Also untested, got as far as seeing this and quickly exited the menu option:

20160429_112450Cat and Cows?? The more I think about this, the worse it is.

Timer – Yep, both stopwatch and countdown options here.

Alarm – I like this one, setting an alarm which just vibrates your watch is less distruptive than a noise based alarm. You can’t set the alarm on the watch though, you’ll need to use the app for that.

Settings – 4 settings in there, not very customisable.

Overall, enough options for a basic smart watch. You can also get notifications such as SMS from your phone, and that’s configured from the app too.

Summary

Do I like this watch? I’m asking myself because I’m still not sure. It still has a few inherantly annoying things that smartwathes have, such as low battery life and a screen that doesn’t do the basic function of showing you the time without pressing a button, or enabling ‘light up at any movement’ which has other drawbacks. However. it’s very handy to glance at your watch to see an SMS rather than dragging your phone out of the pocket, and it’s still a step (rather than leap) forward from the smart watches of a year ago.

It’s also a hybrid fitness watch and smart watch – I do like to know the basics of step count and heart rate, but the other functions are lost on me personally. Along with my rant below, I can’t recommend the watch, but nor can I dismiss it. It’s one of the better ones out so far, and I don’t believe anyone would be disappointed in their purchase. If you don’t mind buying a new watch every year, then this is worth getting. If you don’t want to buy a new watch every year, then maybe wait for something newer… however, something better may take quite a while to show up.

 

*Rant time:

FitBit Blaze is not supported on Windows Phone 8.1, despite the box implying that it is, and the support site not indicating any issues against the Lumia 640XL phone I was setting it up against.

20160420_213758“Works with iPhone, Android and Windows devices.” – the word ‘some’ apparently left out.

I raised this with FitBit’s Support Twitter account and didn’t get any helpful answer:

Giving up on their lackluster Twitter support, I searched their forums and found this: https://community.fitbit.com/t5/Windows-10-App-Windows-Phone-App/Blaze-not-listed-on-Windows-phone-app/td-p/1213142

The ‘answer’ from that from 1st March 2016 (almost two months ago from time of writing) was this:

Hi everyone! Thanks for moving this to the Windows forum @PureEvil! 
I understand that some of you have already done this but, for those that haven’t tried it yet; if you’re not seeing Blaze appear in the app, please try uninstalling and reinstalling the app.
For users with Windows 8.1, the Blaze tracker is optimized for Windows 10. I highly suggest using a mobile device, tablet, or a computer with Windows 10 installed for Blaze to work properly.
There will be an app update coming later on this week to help with Blaze not appearing on the current app version. I’ll make sure to update you all here once it’s released and will be available to answer any questions.
Thanks for your patience!

There’s no further update, and somehow that’s an acceptable answer. There is no Blaze option appearing at the time of writing. Based on this crappy support experience, I want nothing further to do with the company’s products, which are highly successful and hardly cheap. If everything they had didn’t indicate that this combination of devices was supported, there wouldn’t have been an issue in the first place.

I ended up having to buy an Android phone at a similar cost to the FitBit itself, the Oppo R7s – which I’m really impressed with for it’s price, but money I shouldn’t have had to spend.

Intel Remote Keyboard App

When I was checking out the Intel Compute Stick, I noticed a pre-installed app called ‘Intel Remote Keyboard’.

I quickly googled it to find out what it was, and found Intel’s download page for the product. It sounded pretty good, so thought I’d test it out:

After seeing it in action and playing around with it, I went back and installed it on my NUC to use there too. It’s a very nice solution for using an Android or iOS device as both a mouse trackpad, and keyboard. This only works on Intel devices listed at the website, but pretty much any iOS or Android device as the keyboard and mouse.

It was easier to set up than I expected, with just pointing the phone at the screen to grab the QR code for pairing. If you have, or are thinking of having an Intel NUC or Intel Compute Stick as a media box in the lounge, this gives you a free fully functioning remote. You can have multiple devices paired too, so everyone in the house can have their personal remote in their pocket.

It also supports gestures which you’d normally see on a trackpad, such as pinch to zoom which is a nice touch.

It’s one of those little feature adds that you could probably find a free solution for and muck around with, but this just works, and has a well designed app as part of the free package.

 

Downloads:

Intel Remote Keyboard Host Download: Link

Android Download: Link

iOS Download: Link

Intel Compute Stick 2016 Review

Hi,

Today I’m presenting another review from Mason Baxter, who kindly reviewed and shared with me his writeup of the updated Intel Compute Stick, the older model I had personally reviewed in 2015. Mason’s started his own blog too, where he’s also posted this review. Intel have updated the stick for 2016, and here’s what Mason found out about it:

Intel Compute Stick Review

What is an Intel Compute Stick?

An Intel Compute Stick is a small portable computer that can fit into your pocket. It can change any regular television into a smart TV, giving it the abilities of any regular computer but in your lounge room.

ics1Overhead comparison of the Intel Compute Stick and a banana

Ports
With Intel’s small and sleek design, they still managed to give you options for storage and more USB ports compared to their previous design. The left hand side contains a micro SD card slot used mainly to add extra storage (up to 128GB) whilst the right side holds a micro USB port which is predominantly for charging, and two USB ports. One is USB 2.0 and the other is USB 3.0, unlike their previous version with only one USB 2.0 port.

 

ics2Right hand side – USB 3.0, USB 2.0, Micro USB and power button

ics3 Left Hand side – Micro SD slot and Lanyon hole

Design
In terms of design, the main portion is matte black. With two fan grills and a nice vibrant glossy finish around the logo and LED light. The design is very appealing to look at with the rounded off edges and clean plain finish. On the right hand side there is a small fan grill which has been placed next to a small glossy power button. Whilst the right side carries another small fan grill and a Lanyon hole so that this computer is easy to carry. I found this design very appealing due to the mainly matte finish with a small amount gloss. This gave it a bold look, compared to the previous design being covered in fingerprints within seconds.

Specs
CPU – 1.44GHz Intel Atom x5-Z8300

Graphics – 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics

Storage – 32GB eMMC SSD

Memory – 2048MB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz

Networking – 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0

Operating System – Windows 10 Home (32-bit)

 ics4

 

Setup & Performance
Installing the compute stick was easy. I just plugged power adapter into the wall port and then joined the other end (Micro USB) to the Compute stick, connected the PC to my TV by the small HDMI cord and plugged in my own wireless keyboard and mouse dongles. It then booted up immediately and ran me through the initial Windows 10 setup process. Five minutes later I was finished setting it up and all I needed was a quick reboot and it was ready to use.

Below is a table showing the performance of the Intel Compute stick using PC benchmarking software.

Intel Compute Stick
PCMark7 2,379
3DMark06 2,667


As soon as I signed in I wanted to see the quality when streaming videos. I opened Microsoft Edge and started streaming YouTube videos at 1080p. The results were impressive, there was no lag when watching YouTube. I did notice a bit of a slow rendering as I switched between windowed and full screen. I decided to put the Compute Stick to the test by streaming some 4K content from YouTube. It looked crisp but was the tiniest bit sluggish. What can you expect from a tiny computer using an Atom processor.

Use Cases

  • Home theatre
  • Media Centre PC
  • Portable productivity
  • Thin Client

 

Conclusion
Intel has brought together a stunning pc that is portable because of its small size yet still able to play 4K videos with ease for a home theatre. This PC Performs smoothly, has Windows 10 pre-installed and 32GB on-board storage whilst up to128GB storage using a Micro SD card. However, I wish that the pc did not lag when opening up a number of programs. Overall this PC has been put to the test and has come out with some great results, so if you are looking for an ultra-small, affordable device that can turn a monitor or TV into a basic PC then this product is worth considering.

 

ics5
Everything in the box – Small HDMI to HDMI cord, Power adaptor, Intel Compute Stick and 2 manuals


Thanks Mason for your review! The Intel Compute Stick was provided by Intel.

I took a few photos myself of the unit, so here they are:

 

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20160318_154209
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20160318_154113