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2016/06/25 FC Drivers South San Jose Loop
π 2016-06-25 01:01 in Cars
Nice little loop south of San Jose, with mostly clear roads:












See more images for FC Drivers South San Jose Loop
2016/06/17 Another 3 awesome days at EDC 2016, Las Vegas
π 2016-06-17 01:01 in Clubbing
So yeah, I got a late start with EDC, didn't know about it until last year when I first went, but after finding out what I had been missing out on, I went to fix the errors of my ways :)

while it's only an 80mn flight from San Jose, CA (and an expensive one at this, $450 due to the other 400,000 people also going for that time), it's a bit tough to have virtually a 8-10H jetlag for just 3 days (EDC going from 18:00 to 05:30 and you ideally sleeping from 08:00 to 14-16:00). Without prescription drugs (or otherwise) and caffeine to help with sleep and awakeness, it must be hard :) But before you ask, daytime weather in Vegas was unbearably hot (45C / 112F), so doing this during the day would not work.

Also, people ask me what camera I use. First, that is a correct question :) Cell phones are very poor night cameras due to the insufficient room they have for a good size sensor. I actually carry 2 handheld cameras that I keep on my belt:

  • Sony HX60V: this one has a small sensor which is not ideal for night pictures, but it comes with a 30X optical zoom and half usable 85 semi digital zoom. This is a must for taking pictures of the DJ booth when I'm so far that I can't even see the DJ with my naked eyes.
  • Sony RX100M3: this one only has a 3X optical zoom, but it has a very good 1" sensor for capturing night shots and true color fireworks shots
  • Before you ask, you cannot get a camera that has a big zoom and great night shots without having a huge camera, and usually carrying 2 lenses. By then it's easier to just use 2 smaller cameras :)
    At times, I'd also be filming with the RX100 with one hand (I have about 3.5H of video from this EDC) and taking zoomed shots of the DJ booth with the other hand.

    This gave me a good chance to try my LED shoes I had hacked to add extra battery life (12H) along with lit shoe laces, and my portable blinky lights for my shirt:


    It was a good time to try my shoes I had hacked to have 12H battery life :)
    It was a good time to try my shoes I had hacked to have 12H battery life :)

    As for how big EDC is, saying it's big doesn't quite explain it, and neither does the map, but maybe this night shot from a heli, will:

    map of the grounds, might look small on the map, but it's big :)
    map of the grounds, might look small on the map, but it's big :)


    Getting 400,000 people there and back is no small feat. I took uber the first night because I only arrived around 03:30 (having gone to Omnia to see Armin just before that), and even then the traffic was not clear. The shuttles work ok, except for the loading that is super inefficient in both directions. I really hope Insomniac gets to fix that because it adds substantial unnecessary delays. The wristbands were by color with RFID to verify single use and spot fakes:

    many wristbands, spot the fakes :)
    many wristbands, spot the fakes :)

    Before starting on the report of the 3 days, I'll start with a few misc pictures of signs and people:



    I ran into Dito Milian, who usually takes my picture at Thunderhill :)
    I ran into Dito Milian, who usually takes my picture at Thunderhill :)


    system failure!
    system failure!





    my hoola hoop wielding trance loving fan I run into at all events I go to, was here again :)
    my hoola hoop wielding trance loving fan I run into at all events I go to, was here again :)


    The first day, the Trance lineup was light (as in nothing before 03:30, just two hours before end of the evening), and I was interested in seeing Omnia where Armin was playing anyway, so I went to see Armin 1h30 (sadly not his whole set), from 01:00 to 02:30, and took an uber to EDC, getting me at Stage 7 just after 03:30. By then, I was able to see John O'Callaghan, Jordan Suckley, and W&W









    I stayed until 05:30 when John O Callaghan finished after sunset
    I stayed until 05:30 when John O Callaghan finished after sunset

    back to the inefficient shuttle line to get to bed by 08:00
    back to the inefficient shuttle line to get to bed by 08:00

    Quick video summary of Day #1:

    Day #2, I arrived earlier (22:30-ish) to enjoy the sights and different stages before Above and Beyond and Armin at 01:30 and 03:00 (both of whom played an excellent set at Cirtcuit Grounds), to be followed by Dash Berlin from 04:19 to 05:30 at Kinetic Fields. There were lots of carnival rides, even a water ride!














    the ball swimming pool was always fun :)
    the ball swimming pool was always fun :)

    help, I'm drowning! :)
    help, I'm drowning! :)

    EDC also has great fireworks. Check out the 5mn clip of fireworks the 3rd day (they start getting crazy around 02:40):





    Some other random pictures of the grounds:







    And then it was time for Above and Beyond at Circuit Grounds where they played an awesome set again:



    taken with an 85x zoom, sorry that it's a big blocky
    taken with an 85x zoom, sorry that it's a big blocky



    Armin was next, he played somewhat harder trance, starting with repeating his opening track from Omnia: "I am the dominator, there is no other". Very subtle indeed :)







    After Armin, I went back to Kinetic Fields for Dash Berlin for a sunrise set:





    90m of Day #2 highlights I filmed:

    Then it was time to get back to my hotel room and catch some sleep before the 3rd day (yeah for a 12H jetlag by just going to Vegas). I arrived a bit earlier on the 3rd day since Paul Oakenfold started at 22:30. Before that, went to check out the grounds a bit more:






    Bass Pod caught fire, doh!
    Bass Pod caught fire, doh!

    Then was time for Paul, who played an OK set, but I've heard better from him, then came Paul van Dyk, Ferry Corsten, Markus Schultz, Gaia (to be fair I preferred GAIA's set last year), Gareth Mery and Aly & Fila. An awesome lineup:


    85X zoom again, sorry
    85X zoom again, sorry



















    I took a detour to see Pendulum at Bass Pod. Not the same genre, but I'm also a fan since their essential mix in 2005.


    And back for a bit of Aly and Fila before I had to duck out early to catch a shuttle back to Vegas to get a cab back to the airport for a 07:25 flight home. Was in bed by 09:30 for some much needed sleep :) (although I was a bit sad to have missed the last 45mn).




    this shot almost looks like burning man :)
    this shot almost looks like burning man :)


    90mn highlights video of day #3 I filmed:

    Needless to say I had an awesome time, more than last year even (likely due to a more complete trance lineup). This is likely the biggest electronic music festival in the world, and it's pretty spectacular!

    2016/06/17 Armin Van Buuren at Omnia, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas
    π 2016-06-17 01:01 in Clubbing
    Like last year, on the first day of EDC, Armin was playing at Omnia in Vegas. Last year, I had considered going but it was a bit of a pain since Armin was playing smack in the middle of the good parts of EDC (01:00 to 04:00), so I skipped it.
    This year was the same thing, but I figured I'd go check out Omnia anyway, and duck out early to go EDC later in the night.

    So Omnia is not that simple to get into. First I thankfully had bought tickets online a few days earlier, or I'd have been in an even longer line that might or might not have gotten in that night. Next, they have a pretty strict dress code. For one they stopped me from even getting in with a small black fanny pack that I was carrying the battery pack and lights for my shirt, which of course I was not even going to be allowed to use inside.
    Worse, they told me I could not take my small digital camera and that I'd have to use an inferior cell phone to take pictures if I so wished. That was total bullshit, so I snuck it in anyway, but I really don't like having to do stuff like this (their security included a metal detector, like South Los Angeles crime laden location...).

    Anyway, despite all the BS, I eventually got in with one of my 2 cameras, which is good because there were good shots to be taken.

    there were so many different lines to get in, it was pretty silly and fairly confusing
    there were so many different lines to get in, it was pretty silly and fairly confusing




    The main lighting contraption in the middle was very configurable and at times looked like a spaceship was landing to come abduct you and beam you up. It was pretty cool :)








    I don't know how many got abducted by the tractor beam :)
    I don't know how many got abducted by the tractor beam :)

    I told you, it looks scary :)
    I told you, it looks scary :)




    I think whoever was below this got vapourized :)
    I think whoever was below this got vapourized :)



    Oh yeah, right, I almost forgot: Armin started playing at 01:00. I was able to stay until 02:30 when I had to duck out to get at EDC by 03:30 2 trance sets









    Even if I only saw about half of it, it was a good set. Glad that I got to see Omnia, even if with the BS to get in, and how crowded it gets considering it's not actually that big.

    2016/06/17 A Few Hours in Vegas with my Dad During my non EDC Awake Hours
    π 2016-06-17 01:01 in Family, Trips
    A few pictures on the way to LAS:




    The cool thing was that smack as I was going to Vegas to attend EDC, my dad was also in Vegas for the week to see shows. We went to the Caesar's Palace Buffet, which at 14:30 still had a 1H line, but thankfully they had the express line we were able to use:



    balanced lunch :)
    balanced lunch :)


    After a bit of time to plan the coming days, we went to see Spoofical, the Musical, which was properly terrible:


    Later, I took a bit of a rest in my room at the Casino Royale (no stupid resort fees) before heading out to see Armin at Omnia and spend the rest of the night at EDC:



    the next "morning", I barely got up at 14:30 to meet my dad at Harrah's and see Mac King (whom we had both seen before but was fun to see again):



    Next, we went to Bellagio to visit a bit and have dinner before seeing O, which neither of us had seen in a long time:








    Right after O, which was quite good, I head out and went directly to EDC for the 2nd night.
    The 3rd day, I slept as long as I could before having to check out my room, and went to burn a bit of time at the Venetian next door:











    Next, I had to to the MGM to drop off my luggage so that I could pick it up directly on the way back from EDC to the airport, and stopped by the New York - New York before going to the Rio to meet my dad there for the Fish Buffet and Father's Day:







    The next morning, after EDC, stumbled my way back to the airport to catch a 07:25 flight back to SJC. It's cool to see the heat concentrators on that flight (lots of mirrors redirecting the sun towards molten salts to make electricity):


    we flew past Mt Whitney on the way back
    we flew past Mt Whitney on the way back

    2016/06/14 Droid and Friends, Thunderhill
    π 2016-06-14 01:01 in Cars
    Can't believe it had been 3 years since my last DnF. Time flies...








    Attila made me look bad, I don't match my car :)
    Attila made me look bad, I don't match my car :)

    This was my first track day of the year, I was a bit rusty and my tires were not new, so as they got hot, I quickly got slower through a given session. Also, sadly my brand new pads would pseudo-randomly brake long maybe just once out of an entire session, but enough to keep me on the edge of not knowing if I could brake late or not (so I mostly didn't).
    End result of all this is that I only got down to a 2:00, way short of my time of 1:56, but that's fine, not all days are best days :)

    See more images for Droid and Friends, Thunderhill
    2016/06/04 Another Wine and Art Festival in Sunnyvale
    π 2016-06-04 01:01 in Public
    No frills, just a good excuse to go out and get a bit of sun :)











    2016/06/01 Toguard HD 7" Full HD 1080p Android GPS navigation Touch Screen Car Dash Cam Dual lens WiFi
    π 2016-06-01 00:00 in Cars, Linux
    This is a very welcome update to the 5" mirror. You can read my review of the 5" mirror. This is the product link: http://www.amazon.com/Toguard-Mirror-Navigation-Screen-Android/dp/B01FJZ4ZRE

    It is a very welcome update, the older mirror. The camera is nicely integrated now, the screen bigger, and most importantly, the android system has more memory, so you can now easily run other apps like google maps (with the old mirror, you ran out of memory all the time). This is really the update I was waiting for. The old mirror has a super annoying start and stop music and voice. They have now been removed. This is great!

    After connecting to Wifi (2.4Ghz only), you can run google maps or google play store, sign in your google account, and get your saved location searches on google maps (so that you don't have to type them on the mirror, the software keyboard is not very easy to use). As a trick type "ok maps" in the google maps search window, and in most countries, it will download maps for offline use. You can install other apps from the android market, bit it waze, or whatever else you fancy.

    Let's compare the form factor, the mirrors are almost the same size (but the new mirror has nice straps built in), however the main difference is where the display goes. The old mirror put it on the side so that you could read the screen on the left, and see cars behind you on the center and right. The new mirror has a bigger display in the middle and I'm not sure if I prefer that, I think it may be a matter of getting used to it. This is because you're now supposed to look at cars behind you by looking through the display and unfocussing your eyes. It works, but I think you don't see as well. Also, if there is a lot of daylight behind you, the daylight will not make it possible to read the screen (but at least you'll see the cars behind you). I think I kind of prefered the android screen on the side like in the 5" version, but the tradeoff is that you get a small screen which may be harder to read depending on your eyes (I have excellent vision, so in my case I can read both screens fine, but you may not be able to read the 5" one as well):



    this gives you an idea of how you see cars through the screen
    this gives you an idea of how you see cars through the screen

    The camera is built in and more tidy, that's definitely a plus:


    Here are the main points:

  • I have to say again that Toguard/Jeemak US is one of those new Chinese companies that actually cares about customer support and doing the right thing. I have to give them credit for this and hope more companies will do the same. The product is far from perfect, but from my interactions with them, they really care about making it better.
  • The provided written manual is very good. It really is good, kudos for that, especially because how unusual it is for Chinese products.
  • The device is a full featured quad core android tablet in side your rear view mirror. It's still running the older android kitkat which is more memory efficient, and comes with more RAM, so things run smoothly now.
  • You get a real android tablet in a 7" factor. You can add our google account, install google maps or waze and you could even install calendar or gmail if you wish.
  • The wifi is 2.4Ghz only and would be used to install apps at home, or tether to your phone, but that's a bad choice because wifi tethering is very expensive on batteries for your phone. Still, it's better than nothing, and ok for you if you have a fancy car that provides its own wifi hot spot.
  • The unit ships with sygic and polnav mobile. Polnav didn't seem to really work or have data I could get for the US, but sygic seems like a good navigation app that works offline. You can also use google maps offline if you wish. Too bad you cannot tether via bluetooth.
  • While you cannot use the missing bluetooth to route audio from the mirror to your car, it comes with an FM transmitter, so you can route audio to your car radio.
  • The rear camera is low quality, but I'll take that over nothing, it can come in handy if you get hit from behind, it will do fine to prove that. The front camera in the 7" mirror looks bigger and better, but in my testing conditions, it didn't so very well for capturing license plates of moving cars. I think the lighting conditions were non optimal and caused this because I've seen a video from someone else taken by the same camera, and it was much better quality than what I captured. This is another way to say that you should expect better quality in some conditions than what I posted.
  • The GPS is a great addition for the base price (many dashcams do not include it by default). First I thought mine wasn't working well, until the nice Toguard support told me that it had to be mounted with with glue sticker facing down (I had glued it to my windshield next to the mirror, which meant it was upside down).
  • The device comes with about 16GB of flash free, which is very generous, and handles external sdcards perfectly. Flash is used to install android apps, and video recording is done on the external sdcard.
  • Toguard removed the stock android settings app, which arguably is a bit complicated and replaced it with a custom settings app that has just the basics
  • Downsides:

  • The flipside of the custom settings app is that it lacks advanced settings that android enthusiasts may like. But for instance this has caused issues with timezone settings (you have to manually change the time for the timezone you're in). Similarly, you can't install a new keyboard from android market and switch to it since you can't access the settings. To be fair, average users won't care and will probably be happier with the simplified but limited settings app.
  • The android status bar where you can find quick settings and info from some apps, is gone. Average users won't care, power users of android might.
  • The unit is flashable, so in theory you can install new firmware, but it requires a complicated procedure using customized windows software (I tried that while reviewing an early version of the hardware). I expect that it will likely not be end user upgradable.
  • The video recorder works fine, but it does not allow changing EV settings, nor can it be used as a parking camera with motion detection.
  • There is no more hardware menu key. You cannot long hold the menu key to switch apps, you have to go back to home, select the app and switch. Not a huge deal, but it's slower if you switch apps often.
  • Sadly it does not come with bluetooth. Bluetooth would have been a perfect way to get internet from your phone via bluetooth tethering without killing your batteries. While having callers show up on BT could be useful for some, most cars do this now, so I don't really need that feature, and the audio from that mirror isn't great anyway.
  • The rear camera wire is not good though because it contains a big adapter bulge in the middle which makes it impossible to route inside your car due to how thick that bit is.
  • The rear camera is only 480p and poor quality but it will read a place from a car that is stopped behind yours. If any car is moving, the picture will be unusable for license plates but good enough to see that someone else hit you (it is mostly the same camera than the older 5" mirror).
  • The rear camera has a red wire you're supposed to connect to your rear headlights. This is however difficult to do on my car, and I wish they had just used a light sensor to remove the extra wiring requirement. In my testing, I did not wire the night vision LED, although to be honest, I doubt they can do much except maybe to video the outline of someone who would come on foot to break your rear window. If you're driving, headlights from cars behind you totally overwhelm the camera.
  • Because the hardware does not support motion detection, wiring to always on power is not very useful.
  • So, my verdict?

  • If you are looking for a mirror that can run android apps and you are ok with a very well integrated dual dashcam, to show that the other car hit you, and you didn't reverse into it, this will work. If someone who does a hit and run on you stops before driving off, you may not get their plate. If you're hoping to get the plate from someone who cut you off, it may or may not work for that depending on lighting conditions
  • If you want best video quality and don't need dual cam, the Wheel Witness HD Pro is the best one I've seen so far, read my review, but keep in mind that it's a big single dashcam without android.
  • If you don't really want/need to add 3rd party android apps, and all you want is a basic dual cam rear view mirror, then the old 5" will likely work just as well for you while having the advantage of keeping the screen separate from the mirror area you use to see cars behind you
  • But to repeat myself, if you're looking for a smart mirror that can run android apps while also being a dual dashcam. This device is definitely best in class today. You should be happy with it.
  • Shots from the camera:

    in some cases of moving cars, you can barely read the plate
    in some cases of moving cars, you can barely read the plate

    most times, it's almost readable, but not quite
    most times, it's almost readable, but not quite

    same here
    same here

    low speed, close to car, but not close enough
    low speed, close to car, but not close enough

    finally
    finally


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