Mounting an iPhone as a webcam.

Yes, you can use EpocCam to enable an iPhone/iPad as a webcam on Mac or PC. But how do you mount the thing so you’re not looking up the user’s nostrils?

I took a bit of Meccano and attached it to the top of the back of my iMac with 2M Command adhesive strips & added a powerful magnet from my Sugru with magnets kit.

Then I placed the iPhone into a case that has a steel plate attached to its back (normally used in to car on another magnetic mount). Then I positioned the iPhone in landscape view (the only orientation that works with Epoccam) with its edge sitting on top of the iMac. Then I adjusted the angle of the Meccano plate until a suitable position was achieved.

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EpocCam HD turns iPhone/iPad into a high resolution webcam in Zoom.

The first time I tried this app (invisible drivers on Mac/PC & app on iOS) it just flat out refused to work. An associate also failed to get it working. I requested & received a refund from Apple.

Make sure you use the Pro or HD version of EpocCam on the iOS store, it costs $13. If you get the ordinary app you can select the update path from that version.

However, last week, another friend mentioned it worked for him, so today I tried it again. First, open the app on the phone & select your connection method. You can choose between wifi, USB or NDI (Network Device Interface). You can choose different video bitrate per pixel between 1.0 & 10, the default being 3.0. As the bitrate per pixel increases or decreases, the bandwidth increases, from 2 Mbps at 1.0 per pixel to 19.8 Mbps at 10 per pixel.

Then open Zoom & select EpocCam in the Video Settings section of Zoom.

Make sure you have quit using EpocCam Viewer app on the Mac. This is why I failed to get it working that time a few months ago, I thought I had to be using the a dedicated Mac app. Instead, the Mac uses the drivers downloaded from here: https://www.kinoni.com.

Once connection has been made over wifi or USB, make sure to swap from the iPhone's rear iSight camera to the front FaceTime camera. The control for that is in the top right corner of the phone's display.
Note: EpocCam only works in landscape orientation. EpocCam also works in Skype & QuickTime X.

There are hardware issues involved. All plain iPads (including current 7th gen), Minis prior to the current 5th gen, 1st & 2nd gen Airs, iPod Touches "feature" 1.2 MP FaceTime cameras. Therefore, with the FaceTime camera selected the experience is horrible unless the rear camera is used.

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iSight insight.

Fascinating. The original Firewire 400-connected Apple iSight (VGA) webcam works after a fashion in macOS 10.15.6, with the right adaptors, that is. The microphone part is no longer operative but the camera does work, but in Zoom it's best without virtual backgrounds active.

The connectors I used are the Thunderbolt 3-to-Thunderbolt 2 adaptor, the Thunderbolt 1-Firewire 800 adaptor & a Firewire cable with the 9-pole 800 connector at one end & the 6-pole 400 connector at the other.

Being only a VGA camera, the quality isn't great but it is usable.

iMac Specifications boost

Apple have released new 27-inch iMacs & tweaked the 21.5-inch models a little. With the latter, no HDDs are available, only various sizes of SSD or a 1 TB Fusion drive.

The action is with the 27-inch iMac. There are 3 tiers, 3.1 GHz 6-core i5; 3.3 GHz 6-core i5 (or 3.6 GHz 10-core i9) & 3.8 GHz 10-core i7 (or 3.6 GHz 10-core i9). All processors are 10th gen Intel.

Some blurb from the website: Faster processors and graphics, expanded memory and storage, enhanced audio and video capabilities, and an even more stunning Retina 5K display with Nano-Texture Glass (AU$750 option) first seen on the Pro Display XDR. Finally Apple has added the 1080p FaceTime webcam that was previously exclusive to the iMac Pro.

The 1st-tier 27-in is restricted to 256 GB SSD with no upgrade available; 2nd-tier 27s have 512 GB, 1 TB or 2 TB SSDs & the 3rd-tier 27s start with 512 GB & have SSDs of 1 TB, 2 TB, 4 TB or 8 TB. I find in incomprehensible that Apple should ship these things with less than 16 GB of RAM, however by not doing so, it's cheaper for the owner to upgrade the memory using non-Apple branded RAM modules.

The 1st-tier is apparently pretty basic, no upgrades to processor type, drive capacity or graphics card. WYSIWYG, aka What You See Is What You Get. However, testing shows that the 3.1 GHz 6-core i5 processor now sports 12 threads, compared to the 6 threads for the 3.0 GHz 6-core i5 from the 2019 base model. The newer graphics card & new processor combine to give greater performance under Cinebench testing that the previous year's high-end 27-in iMac. It also comfortably out-performs any 16-in MacBook Pro.

More info on the Apple website in your country.

In reality it’s just a significant spec-bump.

The bloggers' rumour mill still suggests a new design for the current 21.5-in 4k range with a reduced-bezel 23 or 24-inch size but using the same chassis. Also a 12-in MacBook, a 2-port MacBook Pro, a Mac Mini are rumoured to be most likely to get the first Apple Silicon processors as super high performance is not the aim of such devices.

Stay away from Gippsland

I found the original on a friend’s Facebook page, clearly taken from an American spoof article and (poorly) modified to suit Australian times & conditions.

My friend is not the same grammar & spelling nazi that I am. I’ve been told my level borders on OCD.

Anyway, here it is:

FYI: If you’re planning on visiting Gippsland, we’re doing OK here right now with COVID cases. We watch in horror as the rest of the country spikes and wonder how long before it makes its way here.

So if you plan on vacationing at our rivers, lakes or on our waterfalls this winter, I think you should know that red ants and bedbugs have infested hotels, motels and cabins across the area due to an unusual Autumn.

Crocs have eaten all domesticated animals and some smaller people.

We have had rabid dingo sightings at every park and town.

We have Yowies* INVADING OUR PARKS.

Echidnas "stabbing" small children should they dare to enter the bush!

Drop-bears have made their way over and multiplied at unprecedented rates and wander the local campgrounds in packs.

Murder hornets!?! We’ve got SHITLOADS of murder hornets. Not to mention the nasty redbacks.

Head lice now fly… right beside the bats.

So stay where you are, in your own state or country where it's safe!

Seriously, PLEASE DO NOT COME HERE… ✋🏼 🤗
and we also have NO TOILET PAPER!!

*A Yowie is the Australian equivalent of the Yeti or Sasquatch.

Old display doesn't cut it

While it works, it’s not a solution. Using a 20-inch 2005 Apple LED Cinema Display as a second screen with a 4k iMac is insufficient. The resolution at 1650 x 1050 is too low & the refresh rate so slow as to leave ghosts of previous images behind the new ones, quite inadequate for use with Zoom. And on Saturday we have our monthly Apple User Group Meeting, a second screen is desirable. I can use the iPad Mini via Sidecar but that display is far too small to be of any use.

So I've bought a replacement, an Acer 21.5-in LED display with a triple interface: HDMI, VGA & DVI. It ships with a VGA & a DVI cable, so that's one more VGA cable I'm unlikely to ever use. I bought a Thunderbolt 3 to DVI adaptor so I could connect the MacBook Pro to the Cinema Display but now I'm using that device to hook up to the iMac.

A couple of weeks ago I tried using a spare 20-inch Acer LED display but when I hooked it up, I could see it had suffered some impact & the screen was cracked & quite unusable. Had I checked a week earlier I'd have been able to put it out with a bi-annual hard waste collection. As it was, I was able to dispose of three dead printers & a 55cm CRT TV in the e-waste section of the pickup.

The ghosting or retention of faint images of windows previously closed windows is NOT evident when connected via a DisplayLink USB video adapter.

Lucas Torpedo

From Randy Cassingham's now-defunct JumboJoke forum:

Jumbo Joke: Humor the Way You Like It

Never Buy Version 1.0 Torpedoes

From my files dated May 1994. Anyone who has owned a car with a Lucas-made electrical system will certainly relate to this one.

Some years ago, I worked with a fellow with the very British name of Ken Appleby. He had a Spitfire, I had my '74 B, and we used to motor out to Pickwick's Pub and throw darts after work on occasion.
Ken used to work for Lucas in the UK, specifically for a division of Lucas that did military electronics. My favorite of his stories was about the time he had been working on a computer-controlled torpedo. It used magnetic core memory to store the programs, which had the advantage of being very non-volatile as well as not susceptible to EMP discharge.
So Ken got to ride on the boat for the first test of the torpedo that used the computer with his program in it. Somewhere out in the North Sea, on a Royal Navy cutter, Ken and his crew launched the first ever run of this new weapon, and Ken learned a new respect for debugging.
The program was supposed to make the torpedo shoot off the boat, dive to a depth at which it couldn't be easily detected, then circle toward the target, climb to striking depth, and hit the target. There were on-board sensors to detect sea level, and the torpedo was supposed to travel at a preset distance below sea level, with constant feedback keeping it on track.
Somehow, somewhere, Ken had multiplied one of the 3D coordinates by a negative number, and this error soon propagated through the transformation matrix (the mathematical construct that models 3D space), with predictable results.
Within instants of hitting the water, the torpedo -- instead of sinking out of visible range -- blasted up and out from the water in a great silver fountain, then continued skipping across the surface of the blue like some sort of deranged wingless flying fish. Worse yet, instead of circling toward the target, it circled all right, but began to return to the ship that launched it. Fortunately it was not armed, but they still detonated the self-destruct on it rather than let it slice through their ship at 50 knots or whatever rate it traveled. Because of the non-volatile core memory, Ken was able to debug the program from what the Royal Navy frogmen could recover from it, and he fixed the problem for Rev 2.0.
But I must admit that the image of the torpedo, splashing happily above the surface of the water like an aroused porpoise, is one that returns to me in idle moments such this. What else would a Lucas torpedo do but try to fly?

Posted October 29, 2012 8:00 AM

Numb

Fifteen years ago I was perched awkwardly on a telephone exchange ladder for too long in one position, identifying faulty circuits in a cable replacement job. This resulted in permanent nerve damage to all toes bar the big one on each foot.
I've done something (unidentified) today to trigger major numbness in the toes of my right foot. It's not sciatica, I know that sensation of old, this is quite different and feels plain weird.

Airy feeling

My policy with vehicle tyre pressures is to check them with every second fill of fuel. The latter having been somewhat rare of late, only one refill in April, and another on Thursday just gone. I also run pressures around 12% higher that recommended on the car's tyre info placard.

Remind me not to check my tyre pressures at the last fuel stop I visited. I felt the car’s ride to be a tad harsh, I put it down to my choice to run higher pressures.

Turns out the actual pressures, measured with a calibrated & accurate gauge were 25% higher than I’d thought them to be. The tyre gauge at that fuel stop were wildly out. I mean, 43 psi in the front tyres of a light car was as much as the recommendation for the front wheels of a well-laden 1-tonne capacity van on light truck tyres.

Expensive mistake, inappropriate usage.

I like to use my 13-inch MacBook Pro (Escape) in bed, but that has led to problems. Today I collected it from the Apple authorised repairers I had taken it to four days earlier. The problem was one of the two Thunderbolt 3 ports wasn't allowing USB-C connecters to be pushed all the way into the port, so I couldn't use it for charging or connecting peripherals. The other port was being cranky as well but not to the same extent.

The service department determined both ports were heavily encrusted with dust and one was loose inside. A few times the Mac had fallen from the bed, landing on various edges, leaving significant dents in the aluminium top case. One such dent crossed the loose port diagonally, meaning that particular impact had caused internal damage ultimately rendering the port unusable.

The way Retina MacBook Pros are constructed is that the top case also incorporates the trackpad & battery as one complete unit, making for a somewhat expensive repair should something be broken. The serviceman was able to get the ports working by removing the dust but one port would still be loose inside. I had noted that battery capacity over the month of April 2020 had dropped below the minimum recommended 80%, indicating the battery was dying off.

Can you see where this is going? I now had two reasons to replace the top case: one to replace the battery & another to rectify the dents on the edge plus to finally secure the loose Thunderbolt port's internal fixings. I then had to weigh up the cost. It was going to be approx. ⅓ of the cost of a decently-specified base model 2020 13-in MacBook Pro. Also, mine was less than two years old so I considered it worthwhile to proceed with the repair.

Now that's done I need to re-evaluate my usage of this laptop. I will still use in in the bedroom but not on the bed, instead at a desk. This should keep it away from dust & accidental falls from the bed should I doze off while using it. Plus, when not in use, it will be put into a hard-shell laptop briefcase along with its backup drives & assorted peripherals & dongles. I shall also buy some "canned air" from an electronics hobby store. This is a can similar to an aerosol can but filled with desiccated compressed air, delivered to where it's needed via a thin plastic tube. This will be used regularly on the Thunderbolt 3 ports.

I'm using FruitJuice, an app that monitors the battery health & calibrates it when needed. FruitJuice will let you know how long to stay unplugged each day to keep your battery healthy, it aims for at least 20% of the battery life expressed in hours. I'm using the app now to run the initial Maintenance/Calibration cycle. This involves fully charging the battery then running on the battery until it's used 80% of its charge. Then it is fully charged again and ready for regular use.