Baby Monitor Phone Hack


At our baby shower we were lucky enough to be gifted with an awesome baby monitor: the Samsung SEW-3037W, which features Pan Tilt Infrared video.  Aside from the annoying startup sound that can’t be disabled (that every Samsung device seemly has to have), it’s been the perfect device for keeping an eye on Clara. However a few weeks ago, we realized that the microphone –  the most critical part of the monitor – stopped working.  Samsung was really good about fixing it for warranty, but we are without it for a few weeks.

We had a few options: move Clara from her secluded nursery to a closer (and noisier) part of the house, buy a cheap baby monitor that may not even work well (and probably set us back another $50), or figure out how to cobble together a baby monitoring system with what technology we have.  Luckily we were able to use our phones to have a decent monitoring system that set us back $4.

We actually have my old Droid Bionic permanently docked in Clara’s room, that streams music and white noise at night.  After installing IP Webcam on the phone, we have an instant video-streaming server. From there we installed tinyCam Monitor PRO onto my Galaxy S4 and have been able to consume the stream.  I played with the free version of tinyCam Free to set up a proof of concept, and opted to spend the $4 so that I can get the prolonged audio streaming (the free version only allows a minute of streaming).

As far as an interim solution, this has worked really well over the last week.  There is a tiny bit of a lag (about 1 second on average), but I’m wiling to live with that.  The Bionic’s camera has always been pretty poor in low light, but I can make Clara out pretty well (we have a lamp with a red light bulb in the room).  The angle isn’t the greatest because the camera sits in the dock on her crib, but it gets the job done.  The benefits of this is that both Bethany and I can monitor Clara at the same time, and I actually can use VLC on my computer to watch the video as well (where this screen shot came from).


All things being equal, I would choose the Samsung monitor due to the responsiveness and nighttime performance – but if you don’t have $200 to spend, and happen to have an old Android phone lying around, this would definitely be an option that would get you by.

So we now have Vine

Well it took many months, but it looks like Vine finally came to Android.  After downloading it and playing with it, I’m sorry to say I’m not too impressed.  First and foremost, check out my crappy first attempt at making a Vine, showing off our nursery we’ve been working on.  I’d love to have embedded the Vine into my post, but alas they don’t offer that functionality. Update: Stupid me didn’t see the “Embed” link at the bottom:

Speaking of limited functionality, some of my first thoughts of this app include:

  • Seriously, the videos just auto-play when the app loads?!?
  • There’s no way to mute the volume??? (at this point I regretted starting the app while in the office)
  • How does this Twitter app not use Twitter O-Auth?
  • Why is this audio out of sync when I record?

What I don’t get is how a nearly 10 billion dollar company like Twitter can take so long to release an Android app, and when it does, it feels so lack-lustered?  I can definitely appreciate the intricacies of app development, and I realize that you can’t simply throw more bodies to make an app better, but this seems incredibly half-baked.  It’s a little ironic that Twitter, a company that is sacrificing (3rd party) app functionality in favor or their web interface, produces an app like Vine that has such a bare-bones web presence.

I understand that apps are a journey, but in terms of first impressions on the biggest mobile platform: this seems to have fallen pretty flat…

Goodbye Motorola

Nearly four years ago I entered the world of Android with the original Motorola Droid. Two years later, I was eager to upgrade to one of the most early anticipated Android phones: the Droid Bionic.  Like many, I was led to believe that this was going to be Motorola’s next flagship phone, ushering an error of dual-core processors and 4G LTE.  After months of delays, I stood in an (albeit small) line on release day to get the phone, only to find out that this wasn’t the flagship device I was looking for. 


A month later Motorola released their revamped Razr line, a phone that learned all of the lessons from the mistakes that caused the Bionic to become so delayed.  As quickly as the Bionic flashed onto the scene, the phone seemed to have fizzled out from Motorola’s roadmap.  Soon it became apparent that I bet on the wrong horse, that this phone was the red-headed step-child that Motorola conveniently ignored.  The device had some pretty gaping holes, from a crappy camera to unstable Bluetooth.  I realize that every phone has its problems, there isn’t a perfect one out there – but the issue came with how Motorola addressed Bionic problems: they ignored them.

The phone shipped with Gingerbread installed, with a promise to upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich soon.  As the months passed, the promises of the upgrade grew more ambiguous, as we watched more and more phones released after the Bionic get upgraded.  Over a year after its release, with Jelly Bean on the horizon, Motorola and Verizon finally gave us our coveted upgrade.  Again more empty promises were made about the Jelly Bean upgrade, and of course the Bionic’s younger cousins got first dibs on the new bits, with the Bionic not being updated until last month.

Don’t think Bionic owners got a raw deal? Just ask Motorola’s VP of Product: he admitted as much last September.  Nothing changed however, Motorola has got bigger problems to deal with.  Google has all but cast them out from the product party, there doesn’t seem to be any worthwhile products in their pipeline.  The rumored “X Phone” is all but vaporware, with Google reportedly pulling out of the device’s development.

Here we are in May, when I become eligible for an upgrade, and not only has Motorola not given me any incentive to stay, but they’ve justified my resentment of their products, to the point where I won’t even own a Motorola device ever again.  Now that the Galaxy S4 is out, I’m more than happy to buy a product from a company that hasn’t ignored their products the way Motorola does.  Thanks for introducing me to the world of Android, Motorola – but I’m happy to leave you for greener pastures.

We’ve Droid’ed Up!

A few days overdue, but relevant anyway:


Last weekend Bethany and I went out upgraded our smart phones over to Motorola Droids.  We didn’t stand in line or anything crazy, but as it turns out we were able to get pretty good discounts and buy them on Saturday.  A few weeks ago I wrote about how I was drooling about the Droid, and the opportunity to have a good smart phone experience on the Verizon Network.  After 5 days of using the device, I can saw that device definitely lives up to the hype and offers everything I was looking for.

My first entry in to the SmartPhone world was using the Treo 600.  The Palm had a really nice OS that I enjoyed using, but the 600 was a 2G device.  I upgraded to the Treo 700w, which was probably the single-worst phone that I had ever owned. It was a Windows Mobile phone that was packed into hardware that was too underpowered to run it.  That phone drove me nuts and as soon as I had a chance to upgrade, I did – to the HTC Mogel (or Verizon xv6800).  Windows Mobile didn’t really bother me at the time, but it served my needs.

Now, nearly two years after getting that phone, after the iPhone 3G and the application ecosystem, I grew increasingly frustrated with Microsoft’s lack of drive in the mobile space.  Windows Mobile was quickly becoming stale, and while there was a historically large application offering, there was nothing new and dynamic coming about.  You could tell that all of the great developers have moved onto bigger and better things.

Enter: the Droid.  This phone may not *yet* have the application offering, but it delivers a sleek, colorful mobile experience on a fantastic network.  This phone does everything that I want it to do, and does it very well.  It gives me the ability to use a keyboard, to multi-task, and to be able to tether if I’d like to.

Back to “5 Days in” and I am exceedingly happy with the device. I’ve discovered that most of the big apps (like Shazam and Pandora) have ported to Android and have a good offering there.  I love the phone’s performance and some of the little thing things that Android does to make an awesome experience.  For example, I really like my “Contacts” interface, which combines my Google contacts with my Exchange contacts that I use on Outlook, without any duplication or redundancy.  To make things better, Facebook has imposed pictures onto all of my contacts, without screwing anything up on the Google or Exchange side.

The touch is definitely sensitive on the Droid, and coming from an older touch platform like Windows Mobile (that really never adapted from the stylus to the finger), it’s taken a little bit of getting used to.  One of the things that I’ve missed from my Windows Mobile phones (and a feature that Blackberry has) is the scroll wheel on the side of the phone. The “flicking” motion is nice, but something that I will need to adjust to when it comes to scrolling content.

There are a few things that I don’t like about the phone, but they are relatively minor things like not being able to accept/reject Exchange calendar invites in my email.  The keyboard is a little flatter than even my XV6800 and does take a little getting used to.  I remember switching from the Tero (which had one of the best keyboards ever) over to the XV6800, and I expect a similar adjustment time over to the Droid’s keyboard.  The on-screen keyboard works really well when I’m looking to do a search or enter in my password.

The camera is really nice as well.  I took a picture of our house using the Droid, then took the same picture with on Sony DSC-W290 12Mp Camera:



The first picture was taken with the Droid, the second being the camera.  You can definitely see the clarity in the camera, but the Droid seems to hold it’s own for a quick picture.

Bottom line: I believe the Droid is a big win for Verizon and their users.  I love having my phone on Verizon, and while the iPhone may still be the sexier device, the Droid – combined with the Verizon network – delivers a better experience that ultimately satisfies me as a Verizon customer.

The Motorola Droid – Punching Apple in the Mouth

By now you may have seen the new commercials for the Motorola Droid, which looks to be the next competitor to the iPhone.  What makes this viable is the fact that a phone with a nice form factor and runs Google Android is now on the Verizon Network.  This first ad takes a shot at the iPhone – right in the mouth.

The iPhone looks great, but the experiences that my friends have with the AT&T Network has deferred me from  getting an iPhone.  I own the Verizon xv6800 (which is basically a rebranded HTC Titan), which I have been mostly happy with.  However, Windows Mobile drives me crazy.  The fact that Microsoft doesn’t seem to put any serious development into the Windows Mobile roadmap really leaves me wondering if I’m riding on a sinking ship.  The fact the Microsoft has taken this long simply  to release Windows Mobile 6.5 – let alone 7.0 – is pretty appalling.

At the end of the day: It’s the Apps, stupid.  iPhone has all of these great apps that you read and hear about, that are capturing the attention of the Smartphone consumers market.  Android looks to have a promising app ecosystem, especially with the fact that they have a free SDK and an open platform.  Now, if they can continue to build up their compelling App inventory, we may have a viable competitor.

The key to this whole thing is Verizon.  Verizon, which is notorious for crippling their devices, will need to let Android to have free reign over the hardware to make this successful.  They have the strongest network by far, which has been the compelling reason for keeping me as a customer.  If I can have a phone that has access to the GPS, allows tethering and lets me do all that my hardware is capable of – Verizon and Motorola will have hit one out of the park.

Now I’m simply left to wonder if this will be my next phone.  I’m up for a renewal discount next month, maybe this will be it.