Upgrading to the GoPro Hero 8 Black

GoPro had a really great deal when they announced the Hero 8 Black, $100 off the camera if I traded in one of my older cameras. Over the years I’ve had a ton of digital cameras for my vacations. This is mainly due to my iPhone camera not having enough megapixels and the cameras that I did buy were generally water proof so I could take it swimming or on some other water type adventure while on vacation. For this deal I decided to give up my old Panasonic underwater camera that I bought quite a few years ago. The screen was a little messed up but the offer did say that I could send in a camera in any condition as long as its former retail price was over $99. The camera also used an xD card to hold photos, I think only my desktop can even read those cards now but I’m keeping the card.

I don’t have the camera yet but I’ve watched a ton of review videos showing the differences between the 8 and the 7 Black which I have. The two features that sold me was that I don’t need the cage anymore to mount the camera and the Hypersmooth 2.0 software upgrade.

The cage part is huge for me. I’ve broken the cage for the Hero 7 Black once already and had to buy a replacement for it. The cage itself wasn’t that big a deal and the one I got as a replacement was actually better than the one that came with the Hero 7 Black in the box. It’s nice that they moved the battery to the side so I can get to it and the memory card easier. The little feet flip up and down from the body in order for the camera to be mounted or to lay flat. I can’t wait to test it out with some of the mounts that I do have like on my bicycle and on my ski helmet.

Hypersmooth 2.0 looks really awesome. I’ve used the original Hypersmooth on my Hero 7 Black and it did a really good job of stabilizing the video on my ski runs compared to my Hero 4 Session. I saw that the new version is supposed to make it look like I’m floating even when the camera is getting really bumped around. There is supposed to be some loss of field of vision but thats a small price to pay for really smooth video.

I’m waiting for the shipping notification from GoPro that they’re sending me my camera. It won’t come in time for my daughters soccer game but I use a tripod for that anyway so I won’t be able to test out the Hypersmooth feature. I’ll have to try that out this winter during my next ski vacation.

No new tech to blog about…..

I’ve come to the point where I’m not acquiring tech in a regular interval (I used to get something new every few months) but I think I’ve stabilized on just a few different platforms rather than trying new things out. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the entire family is locked into the Apple Eco system when it comes to mobile devices (iPhones and iPads) but we’re not upgrading as fast as I used to. The family has an iPhone 7,8, and 6S Plus as well as 2 iPad Pro’s from 2017 and a newer iPad mini 5. That keeps things pretty simple in terms of getting apps and support and also reducing the complexity for syncing phones with music and videos. I personally use a MacBook Pro at home (very little though since my iPad Pro pretty much can do a lot of the things that I normally used my MacBook for)

I am becoming a little less reliant on computers in general (the traditional kind) and have simplified the things that I install and try to keep things vanilla. I still buy my computers with massive hard drives (at least 1TB and on SSD for speed). Thats just my old school thoughts on storage for computers but a lot of my audio and video files have moved over to the NAS and the NAS runs 24×7 unless I shut it down. I’ve also embraced more cloud storage with my main cloud storage providers being Box and Google Drive. I have more than enough storage in both accounts that I don’t have to keep a lot of “stuff” on my laptop. My MacBook Pro is a 2017 and its maxed to the gills but I don’t use nearly all the power that I could since I was originally going to use it for videos for the family but I’ve been able to do that on my iPad.

I’ve also consolidated my camera platform to just using my iPhones and GoPro’s. I don’t know how long GoPro is going to be around but they are pretty solid and they do what I need when I go on vacation. I haven’t bought a GoPro since 2018 but it does what I need it to do and the image stabilization is wonderful. It’s not as fast as a point and shoot camera but its good enough for what I need for it to do. All other devices have kind of fallen away. I still watch lots of videos about different kinds of hardware that seem cool, especially about Android phones like the OnePlus stuff but when I consider the ecosystem I’m in, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to switch over.

The last reason that I don’t have a lot of tech to talk about these days is that I’m just hanging on to my stuff a lot longer. I’m still sporting an iPhone 7, it still seems to work pretty well and it hasn’t slowed down. I’m not really missing any feature that I consider “must haves”. The only thing that I’m really waiting for is 5G capability but I think those will come with the 2020 iPhones so I’m going to skip this generation again. The GoPro Hero 7 Black is good enough the way it is, its just really there to take videos during my ski trips and for soccer games but I think I start using it as a point and shoot too which would be cool. I have lots of extra batteries for it too so I know its going to last a while during the day. iPads will last a while too as long as there are software updates, again nothing really earth shattering that I need. They all work with the first generation Apple Pencil and frankly it works great, I don’t see a need to get a whole new iPad just for the Apple Pencil 2.

Maybe in the next few months I’ll find something compelling enough to upgrade to but in the mean time, I’ll have to look for something else to blog about.

GoPro Hero 7 Black Frame Mount FAIL

The frame that holds my GoPro Hero 7 Black recently broke when I was trying to put the camera in it. I would have thought these things would be way more durable. I haven’t even had the camera for a year and already I’ve had to buy a replacement part. I bought a cheap one on Amazon that is compatible. It doesn’t provide as much protection all the way around but it does let me charge the thing without having to take the mount off which is a huge plus in my book.

So I lose the cool Black 7 on the side of the mount. The camera has had some other problems that I think are software related. It won’t accept all my voice commands and sometimes the camera freezes while recording. It might be due to my taking the camera to cold climates all the time to record skiing or other stuff. I would have thought the camera would be more durable and be able to resist the cold. I think it would be awesome if they would upgrade the Hero Session. I still have my Hero Session 4 and the only thing that I really want for it is image stabilization similar to the Hero 7 Black and the voice controls. I know there is a Hero Session 5 but the camera is old and could use an update. That thing was really versatile and would be perfect for my daughter to use on vacation.

Oh well, I need to accumulate more points to get my next GoPro. This one was free with all my Amex points so it breaking or freezing isn’t a big deal since I technically didn’t even pay for it.

Using an Ubuntu 18.04 LTS VM for uploading pictures and video to Google Photos

Ubuntu Bionic Beaver

I’ve been taking a lot more video on the GoPro of late and there is even video that I haven’t even moved over to Google Photos yet and I’ve been struggling to find a good solution on how to upload all those videos without keeping my MacBook Pro on all night. Recently I upgraded my NAS (I blogged about it before) and now I have a ton of extra space on there. With that extra space and the RAM upgrade I was able to install a virtual machine. I chose Ubuntu Linux primarily because it was free and I had dabbled with it in the past. I had all these videos from Breckenridge on an external drive and the old way that I uploaded video was to mount the drive on the MacBook, go to Google Photos on the web, and then do a drag and drop. Since a lot of those videos are pretty big, it would take a long time for it to upload, sometimes days I’d leave that thing on.

Given that I have all this extra storage space, I thought, why not load the videos on the NAS and then fire up the VM and see if I can do it that way? The loading of the videos was only slightly problematic since my external drive is formatted for Mac and it can’t be read by my NAS when I plug it in directly. That forced me to transfer the video using the Mac to the NAS, that was fairly easy and quick. Only took 10 minutes for about 300GB which is fairly fast. The next part was a tad more difficult. I was familiar with mapping drives and everything with Windows but not Linux. Thankfully the GUI interface for Ubuntu is pretty easy and it saw my NAS as a network drive.

Let me just start out saying that the performance on the VM is pretty shitty when you’re using a browser to navigate. I think it would be way more responsive if I used it directly on a monitor but I don’t have the right plugs currently since its an older monitor that uses DVI and not HDMI. I got Google Photos up on Firefox in Ubuntu and started loading the photos and videos. Unfortunately I kept on getting script errors on the page (no clue why that was) but after rebooting the VM and starting over it seemed to be working for uploading the files. Given that the interface was really really slow I wasn’t able to put them in an album after the upload was complete. I was however able to leave the VM running while I went out to the movies and was able to close out of the browser tab with the VM and come back to it hours later.

After this experiment I think I have found at least my best way of getting all the videos from my trips up to Google Photos. instead of loading all the photos and video on my iPad for my next trip, I think I’m just going to leave it on my GoPro and wait until I get home to start reviewing and making combined videos. I don’t want to take a computer with me, just my iPad but transferring all that stuff is also a pain in the ass and I’d like to relax a bit more this trip.

GoPro Take A Photo!

“GoPro take a photo” was one of the phrases that I used a lot during my vacation.  I went skiing with my family in Whistler BC and I took my GoPro Hero 7 Black.  I loaded this up with a 200GB memory card so I wouldn’t have to change cards during the trip.  I had it powered on most of the time and since there was so much awesome scenery, I kept on saying “GoPro, take a photo” as I skied down trails, went zip lining, snowmobiling, and dog sledding.  The GoPro has an excellent camera and I was able to capture some excellent pictures just by using that phrase.

There is another phrase “GoPro, start recording” that I used a lot too.  This would start a video recording hands free.  This gave me the ability to start and stop recording with out even touch the camera most of the time.  The only thing that I really had to manage was the power for the camera.  Every once in a while if I left the camera on for too long it would turn off on its own, there is a setting to wake up the camera with your voice but it drained the battery a lot faster so I kept this option off.

The GoPro Hero 7 Black is definitely a step up from my other GoPro, the Hero 4 Session.  The image stabilization, the video quality, and the photo quality are all improved.  The Hero 4 Session was great because of its very small size but since it didn’t have image stabilization, the video wasn’t the best unless I kept the camera completely still.

I’m adding some of the pictures that I took from my vacation just to show off how awesome the GoPro Hero 7 Black is just for taking still pictures.  I did set it up to take linear pictures rather than wide angle to try and avoid that fish eye effect.

 

GoPro Hero 7 Black!

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Due to my numerous travels all over the US for work, I accumulate quite a number of American Express points as I spend money on meals, lodging, and transportation.  Over the last year I saved enough points to finally get a GoPro Hero 7 Black for free!!  I have the GoPro Hero 4 Session that I also got on points about 2-3 years ago and I’ve been using it on trips.  I was just about to get the Hero 6 Black when all of a sudden the Hero 7 was announced to be released soon so I just had to wait for it.

I haven’t really had an opportunity to use it much.  The reason that I wanted a new action camera was because of the image stabilization that was one of the top selling features of the new GoPro.  The Hero Session doesn’t have any type of image stabilization so a lot of my videos were jittery and not very usable.  I tried the Hero 7 recently while riding my bicycle and it was really smooth even with all the bumps in the road.  In addition to the Hero 7 Black, I got a screen protector for the front and back of the camera and a battery charger with 2 extra batteries so that I can use it for approximately 6 hours before I need to juice everything up.  I had just enough points left over for a 200GB microSD card to use for videos.

There are more steps involved with using the Hero 7 compared to the Hero Session.  The Hero Session was just 1 button whereas the Hero 7 has 2 (power and shutter).  Although the voice command stuff is awesome, you have to leave the camera on which drains the battery.  I’ll have to be more careful with my action shots during my vacation to Whistler so I don’t drain the battery just waiting to take a video.  I did try out some of the voice commands and they work wonderfully.  I can see those being very useful so I don’t have to reach up and hit a button if the camera is already on.

I haven’t discussed the video quality yet but I think that’s because I’m not one of those people that shoots everything in 4K. I’m just fine with 1080p.  I shoot that resolution with my iPhone 7 and I don’t have any problems with the quality.  It’s also easier to upload to YouTube and doesn’t eat up hard drive space on my NAS.  I can’t wait to find a good excuse to use this camera in the winter while on vacation.

I have too much GoPro Footage

GoPro Hero Session

I got this little guy about 3 years ago to try and take some action cam footage while I was away on vacation.  I received it as part of a package deal in which at 32GB card was included.  I upgraded that to a pair of 2 64GB cards and I think thats half of the problem I’m now encountering.  Due to the pair of fairly large micro SD cards that I have I take a lot of footage and most of it is crappy.  I’m too lazy to go through all of it so I end up transferring it to one of my external drives for later review which is something that I don’t really do.

I’ve filled up close to have a terrabyte of storage already with pictures and videos and its gotten to a point that some of this stuff just has to go.  I’ve even considered getting new NAS drives which would run me about $500, while that would help me in other areas this really wouldn’t help me unless I start doing reviews of my footage.  I’ll admit I’m a digital pack rat, I’ll save footage because some day I might want to view it.  I’m also a bit lazy in constructing my videos into smaller videos with just highlights from multiple sources.  While its really easy to do using iMovie, getting the video to my iPhone to do the edit (I’m not on my MacBook a lot during the week due to work).

The camera itself is pretty good, I wish it had image stabilization on it and the voice activation part as well so I don’t have to actually hit the button on top of the unit.  Thats just small inconveniences, it doesn’t warrant me going out and getting an entirely new GoPro.  Although I will admit that having those two features would be pretty bad ass.  Maybe I’ll save my pennies for a GoPro Hero 6.  I could use it for a few of my upcoming trips thats for sure.  One thing I am sure of, I might take my MacBook on my next vacation and a hard drive or two to store all the footage so I can start making some movies.  I mean technically I can keep it directly on my MacBook Pro, it has 1TB of storage and I’ve barely scratched the surface but I also don’t want to do it to keep my footage off a computer.

I’ll have to start going through the footage again soon, right now GoPro’s app Quik is downloading 64GB of junk that I’ve shot in the last year or so to one of my external drives.  I need to see what space I can free up, I think some of the oldest footage is of stuff like my daughters soccer practice and she’s not really going to watch that stuff (although maybe I should make it into a small video and email it to my daughter).  OK rant over, time to get some shut eye so I can do the rest of the laundry tomorrow and pack up for another thrilling week in NJ.  I’d bring my GoPro but there isn’t anything interesting in NJ worth shooting any footage and taking up previous hard drive space.