Fun technology reviews for Christmas!

December 16th, 2009 by njandreau

Well with Christmas right around the corner I figure – why not do an equipment review for folks who are into technology-large and small? So instead of being simulation-intensive this time I want to talk about technologies I’ve recently come in contact with, have purchased or might purchase. Then of course I will talk about simulation accomplishments.

iPod Nano

Nano technology is finally here!

In my opinion this is going to be a huge seller for Apple, maybe even breaking records this Christmas season. It’s simply got everything going for it without being a phone, which for some folks (like me) is perfect. The thing that really hits you first is how small yet well made it is. I have the shiny silver one and opted for 16 gig of memory, which is only 30 dollars more than the 8 gig version. So it came out to $179.00 for a unit that keeps all your music, podcasts, photos, calendars, contacts, purchased tv shows etc., organized and at the ready! But what really made me make the jump is the fact that it has a video camera. Not only that but you can add effects to your videos while filming. My seven year old son loves to use it for filming his superheroes and  for acting out shows with his friends. And of course it’s so easy to use that all I had to do was show him the basics of the navigation wheel and he was off and running-literally! I also run and love to have the iPod on my runs for not just the musical inspiration but for documenting prettier parts of the journey. It’s so small that you don’t need an armband or like device. Just put it in a pocket. Perfect for working out. Another cool feature is it’s also an FM Radio that has live pausing capabilities and you can “tag” songs so they can be called up later in the iTunes store. Pretty crazy huh?  I have lived with the Nano for about 5 weeks now and I love it. I think music sounds better on it than the original Nano and of course with all the other features it’s an incredible deal. The videocamera makes nice looking videos and the files are not too big to deal with-as they are mv4′s that can be pulled into your photo program like a camera video. The microphone sounds pretty chintzy. It distorts quite easily and the ripping, distorted crackling it makes when something is too loud – like a person yelling- is horrible! But that’s my only complaint. If you are wondering if this is the right gadget to get for someone who loves music, shoots video and works out,  this is the must have for the holiday!

FLIP Minio HD recorder

People will "Flip" out when they see how good the video looks!

We bought one of these last summer and are very glad we did. For simulations it has come in handy as a debrief recorder, an alternate hidden camera (used for exciting, unique angles), a portable following system (for getting fresh statements outside the labs) and as a wider format picture camera. The great thing about the Minio HD is that it is a full 1080i recorder, is very easy to use and connects to a tripod in seconds. We have made a few movies now exclusively with the footages we got from the Flip Minio HD recorder. The quality is so much better than the standard PTZ video cameras we have in the lab. And since the camera can be moved wherever we want it’s quickly become something we are always using in and around our simulations. The microphone is pretty nice too but don’t expect great results when recording from farther than 15 feet away. The dynamic range is not great but not terrible so some musical or audio-oriented recordings will come out acceptable. But this is not a high fidelity recorder for audio. The video however is pretty stunning. There doesn’t seem to be any motion detection/elimination onboard so shaky filming looks…shaky. But put it on a tripod or stable tabletop and the final video looks like it was composed on a fancy HD  camera. If you want to watch your FLIP videos on your TV, connect a mini HDMI (not included) cable and go! There is a zoom function, which is digital so it’s simply “blowing up” the video picture and not actually zooming with a lens. When you “flip” the USB plug from the side of the camera you can then connect it to your computer and import your movies into the included FlipShare software. This software automatically installs when you attach the Flip. The FlipShare software is intuitive and allows you to edit, organize and share your videos.

I bet this is another big seller this season for tech-heads and folks who want an easy-to-use-all-in-one-video-recorder that they can just pick up and play with. You get 120 minutes of recording time in HD for 229 bucks! Pretty amazing.

Okay, now onto the bigger, more complex, more expensive stuff:

Podcast Producer

We recently purchased a new Mac Pro and installed the latest Snow Leopard Server software on it so that we could start providing simulation and AV services for our simulation users and collaborators.  The Snow Leopard server software is around 500 dollars presently. The Podcast Producer (which is one of the services on Snow Leopard Server) service is offering secure web based RSS feeds from our server to faculty, students and collaborators so that they may review their simulations privately, watch a lecture, review an instructional video or listen to audio – like heart sounds etc. In particular, our School of Social Work department has begun using this service. We recorded and uploaded nine videos from the simulations that took place . Students are able to watch the videos in their entirety while on campus from their laptop or UNE computer. Just yesterday I recorded the Maine Medical ED simulations straight into Podcast Capture and it worked well -zipping the files through the laptop to the server upstairs.  Podcast Producer then composes a video file  ”behind the scenes” with fades, titling and fancy graphics etc. The final video looks excellent. So it’s saving us a lot of time and effort when it comes to editing, providing a service for our users and organizing the files in secure, easily distributable ways. Podcast Producer will also compress the original file down quite nicely, crunching a 3 gig Quicktime movie into an iPhone file (for example) that’s an eighth the original size …yet  still looks great in a browser. You can choose from a variety of formats and styles to make your podcasts look unique or uniform.

So let me just say I am really excited and extremely impressed with the Podcast Producer program and service. It is intuitive, fun to use and easy to run. So far our users have had some problems logging in but once they download the latest Safari and Quicktime it is working well. A fix I’d like to see in future updates is a workaround for users of older PCs. Some of the five year old PCs in our simlabs aren’t able to access the workflows. But if you’ve got a relatively new machine and the latest Safari and Quicktime it’s pretty smooth. Some of the other types of recordings that can be done with the program include dual source, screen and audio capture for lectures and performances. You can also open a previously created file and upload that as a podcast. Pretty darn cool. Apple have done it again.

I’m actually making podcasts from live Social Work simulations again tonight.

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Two other pieces of equipment that I’ve recently seen worth mentioning:

1. Gaumard’s female “Susie” simulator. Check out the video. She is awesome. We just had a demo of her and she passed all our tests with flying colors!

2. RevoLabs wireless microphones. Wow… these things are exactly what a dynamic simlab operation needs. We will probably be getting a pair very soon. They sound real nice, are very versatile and have two way capabilities.

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As always this time of year the simulations ratchet up at the end of the semester just before Christmas break. Here’s a quick look at what we had going on at the UNE CSP in the last 6 weeks or so:

-UNE’s new website looks good! Lot’s of sim pix throughout!

-Complete buy-in and use of spaces for Social Work simulations.

-MMC ED simulations focusing on administrative and ethical issues along with the unique patients created from real ER experiences.

-Nursing sim hours were up up up.

- The PA program’s using the labs for their Integrating Seminars. The students love it and want to do more.

Below are some recent pictures……

This social work simulation was simulacast to our Podcast Producer service and to a classroom of students.

The smallest simualtor I've ever seen. The Gaumard premie.

One PA student is the patient and the other the PA. Simulation without the technology!

Testing the Gaumard "Susie" simulator with Jim Behme.

PA students about to start an Integrating Seminar Simulation.

Social work simulation in progress. (This is a picture done with the Flip Minio HD!)

Thanks for tuning in folks. Have a great HOLIDAZE!

T