Thursday, August 21, 2014

Transcend Ultimate 600x Card tested against Sandisk Extreme 300x and NOS Disk Professional 233x cards – is Transcend really that fast?

I picked up a cheap Transcend 8GB 600x Ultimate card at Canada Computers the other day just to see what it was like to get spectacular read and write speeds. After all, 600x makes the promise of 90MBps read speeds, which is breathtaking. My fastest cards are all 45MBps so this should be a read treat.

P1020340_DMC-G6_19 mm_ISO 1600_1-10 sec at f - 2.8

I compared the Sandisk Extreme and The NOS Disk Professional for this quick benchmark. Sandisk promises 45MBps, NOS promises 35MBps and Transcend promises 90MBps. I formatted all of them with SDFormatter before they were tested and I updated the firmware for my Pretec USB 3.0 card reader. I used CrystalDiskMark to do the honours …

Here is the Sandisk Extreme (not the Pro model) … a 300x 16GB card.


The Sandisk actually reads at the promised 300x and writes at 233x. A solid performance for sure.

Here is the NOS Disk Professional, a 233x 32GB card:


The NOS Disk exceeds its promised read speed, hitting 300x every time. Write is a bit slower, but it still manages a very respectable 187x.

And here is the Transcend Ultimate, an 600x 8GB card:


The promised 600x is nowhere to be seen. Reading is decent at 300x, but writing is embarrassing at 133x. Almost any class 10 card can match that.

Perhaps this is a bad shipment … relabeled 300x cards, knock-offs, whatever. I’m just sure now that I need to stay away from Transcend and I would never have thought that before actually trying one.

Sigh …

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fix your worn out bookshelf speakers – Paradigm Titans —replaced foam surrounds and reattached voice coils

This is a story of a good deal turning out not so great, then turning out really great. I was struck one afternoon with the need to find a cheap pair of Paradigm Titans for my bedroom. I already have two pairs and a center channel Titan for the 5.1 Dolby system in the home theater (my living room) and they sound incredible with the Yamaha subwoofer that I bought in the first year I lived in Ottawa (1979.)

I scoured Kijiji and found a pair of V1 Titans for only 60 bucks. I called and was invited to come see them. The cabinet on one of them had a crack an inch from the end, indicating a fall from some height at some point. But they made noise, so I naively walked out with them. I liked the guy who sold them to be and I really liked his dog, Bear. :-)

I got them home and they sounded as good as I had hoped on first listen. Sweet high end with full bottom … (stop snickering.)

But … I cranked it up for listening to movies and realized that there was a weird buzz going on. Eventually I decided to test them properly and used a nice 20-20000hz sweep tone I found on YouTube … shown below. Be careful how you listen to this as high volume could destroy your ears or your speakers. You have been warned!

There was a very loud buzz from 75hz through 150hz on the left speaker, so I decided to try to go around it by purchasing bass blockers for 300hz on a 6dB curve. That was an epic failure :-) .. but luckily Amazon has an excellent return policy and pays for the shipping for you with a full refund. Mind-blowing, to be honest.

So I finally gave in and took them apart. What I found kind of shocked me.


Yes, both surrounds are 100% separated, leaving the cone to float without any support. That provides ample opportunity to flap around and buzz against whatever it touches under stress. Bad news, and I would have ruined a lesser driver with my testing. But these are cast baskets with seriously good parts in them, so I had something to work with.

I ordered a fairly cheap pair of 6.5” foam surround replacements from with first class postage from Eugene, Oregon. They have very good prices and the shipping was pretty quick, about a week. I was pleased and surprised when it arrived that it had changed from first class in the USA to ExpressPost in Canada.

They are pretty simple looking, but they fit perfectly and all the various DIY videos online swear that they make speakers sound like new.

I waited a day or two until I had mustered the courage to perform the repair. I played with the speakers a bit while I was thinking about the repair and planning the steps when I noticed a weird clicking feeling and sound as I lifted the cones to make it easier to attach the inside of the surround. The trick is to roll paper and slide in between the basket and cone. Turns out that the clicking was a detached voice coil, on both speakers! Mind blowing. Here you can see it floating free of the spider that is supposed to stabilize and damp the cone.

So, time to get going. The table is covered with a plastic drop cloth and the tools and surrounds and glue is ready. The latex based glue came with the kit, but I had to go out and find self-mixing 5m epoxy for the voice coil reattachment.

Note the headlamp. I performed this repair after dark by the light of four overhead pot lights and that did not help me see into anything inside the speaker, so the headlamp allowed me much better vision while I was repairing the voice coils for example.

The first task was to remove the surrounds so that I could lay the speakers flat on their baskets for the voice coil repair. Here you see one of them done, which involves peeling the surround with your fingers and then slicing the glues part carefully with a razor blade. I used a paring knife instead and it worked fine.

Once both were clean, I needed to figure out how to stabilized and center the cones when the voice coil was reattached. There was no way I was going to slice off the dust caps to expose the voice coil and then insert shims to center it. Not in a million years. So I cobbled together a little jig from two kinds of Ziploc lids, 20 note cards and a pair of latte cups … I shit you not.



I started with the two round lids, but they were a tad too high. So I added the three square lids, but they had the voice coil extended too far. The coffee cups were need to counter balance the weight of the speakers and keep the jig flat. I finally realized that I could use some note cards to lift the two lids until the voice coils were at the depth I wanted. Ten was the magic number.

This is more obvious in the side view, where you will see that I wanted a tiny bit of the voice coil to show so that the original glue point would not cause weird attachment issues.

From this dry run, I picked up each driver and spun it with the left hand while squeezing the epoxy syringe with the right. I allowed a fair amount of epoxy to flow around the touch point. After a moment, I flipped the driver over and settled it into place, carefully tweaking the lid to center it around the cone. This gave me a good chance of creating a perfectly level driver. From above, you can see the lid centered under the cone.

At this point, I watched an episode of George Gently in order to allow the voice coils time to really set up before I started the surround repair itself.

When I got back, the voice coils had cured nicely and the drivers were ready for another beating.

A note on the photography: All images were shot with the Panasonic GM1 and its 12-32 kit lens. Since there was little light, the ISOs are all very high. 4000 would be considered low for this series, and this last one was shot at 8000 ISO. While there is a bit of grain in there, the image is clear enough to see the relevant details and I think this pretty much proves my point that people should worry more about their skills and less about buying big expensive lenses for their tiny little cameras :-)

You can see here how nicely flat the cone is in relation to the basket.

To put the new surrounds on, you have to squeeze a small bead of glue onto the bottom surface of the inner ring of the surround, and onto the edge of the cone. The kit supplies a couple of spreaders for you to get the glue fairly thin. You are meant to air dry the two for a while before bringing them together, sort of how you use contact cements (which are good alternatives to the latex glue supposedly.)

When you bring them together, you try to make sure that the cone is centered (I was a couple of mm off on one of them) and you have to go around the cone and gently press the surround down into contact with the cone. Over and over and over for 5 to 10 minutes. Eventually, the two will mate and you can set the driver aside to set up a bit while you do the other. The white glue drives clear, as shown here – and yes, I know that I get no points for neatness. You try it :-)

And here is what happens if you do a really poor job of spreading.

You can probably see here that the new surround is wider than the basket. That’s ok, as we will see later.

Anecdotally, I accidentally glued the outside ring on the second speaker and decided to try to do both the inner and the outer at the same time … so there was glue everywhere when I realized that I was insane. So I ran to the sink and washed off the glue from the surround. I did my best to wipe the glue from the cone and the basket and I gave it a few minutes to dry before trying again. DUH.

The outer rings require that you put a single bead around the basket rim while lifting the surround gently. You make a second pass with the spreader and then you start the 10 minutes of pressing it down. For each one again …

And then you set them aside to cure overnight.

I turned my attention next to the broken cabinet that I had mentioned earlier. Turns out that the sides and top and bottom were separated on the outside of the main frame of the speaker, where they met to continue the corners around the back. So I glued the crap out of all four corners and got out my long clamps to squeeze it all back together. There was a damaged section where the top screw on the back went into the damaged box where I also glued it and clamped with a smaller clamp. The following images document that process.

Both drivers are perfectly tight and the cones move much more stiffly, which is what we want.

Of course, there is still the matter of the excess surround hanging over the basket. I didn’t actually remember this until I could not get the driver to go back into its place in the box.

These last shots were taken at 12800 ISO. That’s really pushing it under very yellow light, but the images are serviceable.

After trimming the edges of the surround by pressing a paring knife to the edge and slowly sawing the excess surround away, I inserted the drivers into their routed holes and wired them up from memory, which for me is an image or two on my phone:



Always remember to document things as you take them apart. It saves a world of hurt when you are tired and trying to finish the project.

The final assembly includes screwing the driver to the box (I use magnetic dishes to hold the screws during the project) and then inserting the piece of fiberglass damping into the cabinet before closing it up.

And there we are.

Time to shift them up to my room and move the Missions down to the man cave.

I tested them with the song that had driven completely nuts … Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Lucky Man. They passed the test very well :-)

Note, this room is dark except for a single light in the corner near the ceiling on the far right. Hence the shot is at 12800 and has rather a lot of noise in the blue channel. C’est la vie.

A note on the repair of the broken box. Turns out that the clamps had been a bit tight, so I had to force the backs into place. A fair bit of cracking ensued, but the corners did not separate. So the cabinets are strong, if not perfectly pretty.

That last image is flash lit, which allows a good view of the actual crack that was glued. It is not nearly so obvious under normal lighting, as you will see in the last image of the series.

A note on the fellow I bought these from: when I mentioned the buzzing, he offered to refund my money. I refused, as I wanted to do this project. I’m very glad I did, because I got a rebuilt pair of Titans for less than a hundred bucks. And they sound terrific.

So don’t be afraid of older speakers. If you happen to have rotted surrounds, they are repairable. If you are afraid to do it, there are places that will do it for you. Even separated voice coils should not frighten you completely … :-)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams – May he rest in peace …

My son popped into the living room yesterday and said “they found Robin Williams dead” …

I was instantly caught between the need to choke back tears and choke back vomit … the shock was palpable and the sadness hits me hard even now.

Here is my favourite skit by Robin …

This would be a close second …

I have no idea how to close this off … so I won’t …

Align Capture Times Across Multiple Bodies ** Updated **

Have you ever gone for a walk or traveled on vacation, shooting a bunch of images with your phone, a compact camera and a dSLR? Have you then come back and experienced the nightmare of trying to figure out when the images were taken in relation to one another? Of course they all have a capture time, but unless you aligned the clocks in those cameras to the second, the images are gong to fold in on one another.

You could shoot with three bodies and end up seeing your images sort like this in Lightroom or whatever editor / organizer you favour.


This is a royal PITA because processing them can be a pain when there is wide separation between related images, and when you upload to sites that sort by capture time (the sort that makes the most sense for vacations etc) they will be presented forever out of order.

Update: A user on at commented that GPS is another excellent reason to get your times aligned. I presume that the method involves having your phone track your whereabouts in real time and then processing the log later on against the images. You would want to get your image clocks aligned to a web site in order to be essentially dead accurate against the network clock that your phone was using. I’ll have to try that at some point.

This hit me several trips in a row and I knew I needed a way of dealing with it in Lightroom, so I cam up with a method that works extraordinarily well with almost no effort.

I will give you a methodology that works every time, and then embed a video showing exactly how the mechanism works in Lightroom. You are free to adapt the method to other tools so long as you say my name every time to perform the magical operations :-)

If you follow these steps every time you will never suffer the ignominy of out of order images again … and note that the capture time edits presume Lightroom, but of course you can do the equivalent operation in whatever toolset you have.

  1. The times on your cameras should be loosely aligned, but don’t waste time trying to get it perfect. And if you forget to align them at all, the method stills works.
  2. Shoot your images.
  3. DO NOT change the times on any of the cameras once you start shooting.
  4. Once you are done and loading the images into Lightroom, do the following for each camera:
    1. Open up a web site with the current local time for the time zone in which you shot the images
    2. Shoot an image of the current time
    3. Take the card and load it into your card reader
    4. Select the folder into which you are dumping the cards for the shoot, right click and select “import to this folder”
    5. Allow Lightroom to import the entire group.
    6. Lightroom shows you a “last imported” collection that restricts operations to the imported images from this card – if you need to dump all the cards at once, then you need to do the isolation step yourself later, as shown clearly in the video embedded below
    7. Select the time image and select “edit capture time” in the metadata menu.
    8. Change the new capture time to match the image and do not forget to align the date as well if it is wrong
    9. Click ok and all images are aligned to the image of the time, as in the offset is applied to them all
  5. Once all the cameras have gone through this process, you will see that all of the images are in perfect sort order by capture time.

There are some alternate flows that might be needed:

  • If you have multiple cards from any of the cameras, then you will need to import everything and then perform the capture time edits by isolating images from each camera after the fact. See the embedded video for that method.
  • If you shot in multiple time zones, then you will need to tag the images from each time zone or use separate folders somehow to enable you to process each camera / time zone group separately. It would help to have an image of the time in each of the time zones to make the capture time edits easy. And you will need to perform the after the fact isolation exercise as discussed in the video.

All in all, I find this method easy and reliable. I hope that you do too …

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Double Rainbow …

Karen and I popped over to the casino (OLG Slots) the other evening … we were hoping to see the cruise night, where they get as many as 200 older cars … but alas, it was cancelled due to weather. But the weather paid a dividend … we got to see a double rainbow …

Now, these are shot with the Samsung Galaxy S3 phone, so please don’t critique the image quality Smile

20140730_200303_Android_SGH-I747M_3.7 mm_ISO 100_1-30 sec at f - 2.6

20140730_200314_Android_SGH-I747M_3.7 mm_ISO 100_1-40 sec at f - 2.6

Friday, August 1, 2014

Panasonic GM1 Battery Tests – How much video can you record one one charge?

I happen to own 5 batteries for the GM1. I bought the GM1 at a good price and it came with the stock Lumix battery. This is a smallish battery at only 680 mAh, a rather paltry amount of energy for a camera as sophisticated as this is. So I bought a pair of aftermarket batteries, and then did it again as the result of a “senior moment” … a term I despise and thus substitute with “brain fart” …

Anyway … here are samples of each battery with the protective mother hen in the background …


The battery on the left is the DTSE and the one on the right is a FOSMON. All work well in the camera and all carry a decent charge. Both aftermarket batteries claim a substantial 1000mAh, to which I call bullshit. The FOSMON does outlast the Lumix on video, but only by a tiny percentage. The DTSE batteries don’t get as much use and thus they probably need a few more cycles to get up to full capacity.

I basically set the GM1 on a tripod and set it to 24p at 28 Mbps with exposure values of 3200 ISO, f/3.5 and 1/50 shutter (180 degree.) This was done in a dark basement and there was no movement, so recording was extremely consistent from cam to cam.

I only approximated the total times by adding each file’s length, and here they are:


Recording Time







The FOSMON batteries are obviously a good value. The DTSE not so much.

Note also that sleep mode seems to work with both.