Yearly archives: 2010

December 29th, 2010

The Flip UltraHD vs the Sony Bloggie MHS-TS20 0

By Carlos Miller

Ever since my Canon TX 1 began acting up after it was knocked from my hands by a Miami-Dade Metrorail security guard, I’ve been in the market for a new pocket-size high definition video-camera.

Especially now that they’ve become so affordable.

I paid $500 for the TX 1 in 2007 when it was first introduced. Today, you can buy a pocket-size high-definition video camera for $100.

This, my friends, is revolutionary.

Two weeks ago, I bought a Flip UltraHD (4 GB) at Costco for $100 after a $20 instant rebate. The camera normally retails for $150 at regular stores.

But I ended up cracking the lens by mistake after my first project. Not really sure how it cracked, perhaps because I stuck it in my pocket against my keys.

But I returned it to Costco to get a new one and instead I purchased a Sony Bloggie MHS-TS20 (8 GB) for $169. I figured I would get twice the capacity for an additional $69. This also came with a $20 rebate so Costco normally sells it for $189 and it probably goes for much more in other stores.

The rebates expire on Dec. 31.

But once I realized the limitations of the Bloggie, I returned to Costco and purchased another Flip.

Both cameras are restricted to their hard drive space. There is no slot for a memory card, which can be either a convenience or an inconvenience, depending on how you look at it. For me, it’s probably a convenience because I tend to lose memory cards.

The Flip is a very simple camera to use. It doesn’t try to be fancy, but it shoots very high-quality video and records good audio. It’s a little bulkier than the Bloggie, but nothing too bulky that it can’t fit in your pants pocket comfortably.

The Flip records at 720p, which is perfect for the internet. The Bloggie records at 1080p, which sounds great on paper, but tends to bog down editing and take up more space on your computer.

The main problem I had with the Bloggie was that it requires one to hold it horizontally to record horizontal (or landscape) video, which has been the norm ever since the introduction of film.

If you hold it vertically, which is the way a video camera should be held, it records vertically, meaning you will get two black lines on both sides of the video.

But Sony placed the tripod mount at the bottom of the vertical end, indicating that they expect us to shoot it this way.

The Flip, on the other hand, shoots in landscape mode while holding it vertically, which is the only logical way for one of these cameras to be designed.

Furthermore, the Bloggie had a hard time focusing in a low-light setting as you will see in the above video. And when it did focus, the image was darker than the Flip, which didn’t really have an issue focusing in low-light situations.

Here is a video I did with the Flip and here is a video I did with the Bloggie. Let me know if you see a difference in quality.

So I’m going to return the Bloggie and keep the Flip. And I’ll see if I can make it out of Costco without buying another brand to test out.


December 28th, 2010

JetBlue Escorts NY Daily News Photog out of Terminal 0

By Carlos Miller

JetBlue is no fan of photography. They made that clear in 2008 when they had a woman handcuffed and escorted off the plane for refusing to delete a video she shot of an altercation between two passengers.

They made that clear again this month when they permanently banned an activist who videotaped himself stripping down to his Speedos before entering the TSA checkpoint.

And on Sunday, three JetBlue security guards confronted a New York Daily News photographer who was covering the flight delays at JFK Airport and escorted him out of the airport.

The photographer, Steven Sunshine, was photographing the giant board showing flight delays and cancellations due to the winter storm.

According to the Daily News:

They warned he could be in trouble for taking photos on “private property” at JFK’s Terminal 5, even though he showed them identification and told them he was working on a news story.

“All of a sudden, there were three guys surrounding me,” said Sunshine, 48. “They kept saying, ‘You know you’re on private property.'”

JetBlue spokeswoman Jen Cardillo said Sunshine should have asked for clearance at least three days in advance – even though the extent of the storm was not known until Saturday evening.

She insisted security officials only intervened to avoid “potential disruptions” to travelers.

Potential disrputions? Traveling was already disrupted because of the storm. Any further disruptions came from the security guards.

After he was escorted out of the terminal, Sunshine contacted Port Authority to file a complaint, but they refused to take a report and threatened to confiscate his NYPD-issued press pass if he pushed the matter.

Now the paper is threatening to take legal action against JetBlue and the Port Authority.

Mickey Osterriecher, attorney for the National Press Photographers Association, sent a letter of complaint to JetBlue.

“For you to have singled out Mr. Sunshine, who identified himself as a credentialed press photographer is an insult to our profession and members, who are also part of the flying public. While I appreciate your concerns for the safety of your patrons and employees I would hope that you can understand that photography/videography by itself is not a dangerous or pernicious activity.”

If you would like to file your own complaint, click here.

December 24th, 2010

Google Engineer Bails Out Teen Incarcerated for Videotaping Cop 0

By Carlos Miller

After seven months of languishing in a Los Angeles jail for videotaping a police officer, 18-year-old Jeremy Marks will be home for Christmas.

And he has the internet to thank for that.

Marks’ story was first told in the Los Angeles Weekly. Then it was picked up by varios other sites, including Photography is Not a Crime.

It was on Reddit where Google engineer Neil Fraser came across it. Of all the news aggregating sites, Reddit is the one with the strongest liberty mindset (or anti-authority, depending on which way you look at it). neilfraser.jpg

Let’s just say that Reddit has been extremely good to PINAC.

Fraser, who lives in San Francisco, ended up paying Marks’ $50,000 bond, which even though it had been reduced from $155,000, his parents were still unable to afford.

Fraser explains, “When I was growing up, I spent several years in Germany — a country still traumatized by the Holocaust. One of the things I learned was that bad things can only happen if good people do nothing. I consider myself to be a good person, so I had no choice but to act when I saw something like this happening.”

 Fraser also sent the family $1,500 for Marks’ defense attorney costs, which was matched by Google.

Fraser breaks it down on his own website:

Short version of the story:

Cop catches 15 year old kid smoking at a bus stop in LA.

Cop beats up kid, slams his head into the bus and uses pepper spray.

More cops arrive. Kid is released without charge.

During the incident, several bystanders start recording videos of what the cop is doing.

Cops pick Jeremy Marks, a 17 year old student, and arrest him at gunpoint (destroying the evidence on his phone in the process).

Since photographing police is still legal in California, they charge him instead with “attempted lynching of a police officer”.

The prosecutor makes an offer: plead guilty and he’ll only serve seven years. He declines.

Jeremy is thrown in jail, bail is set at an extortionate amount his family can’t afford.

He sits in jail for seven months awaiting trial.

I hear about the case on Reddit and provide the collateral to get Jeremy out of jail and back to his family for christmas.

While this is a positive story, it still does not make up for the fact that an 18-year-old high school student was incarcerated for videotaping a police officer.

Yes, he was accused of other crimes, the worst yelling “kick her ass” as the cop struggled with another student, but there is no evidence he said that, even with all the cameras that had been recording the altercation.

He wasn’t even arrested until several minutes later in a completely different location by another cop, who did not even witness the original incident.

People get falsely arrested all the time, but for the most part, it is the poor who end up convicted of these crimes because they cannot afford a proper defense.

And most of us are so caught up in our own lives and in our own debt to give a hand or a few dollars of support.

So hat’s off to you, Neil. What goes around, comes around, so this will come back to you tenfold.


December 23rd, 2010

Airline Pilot Disciplined After Posting Video of Security Flaws 0

By Carlos Miller

The Transportation Security Administration did not like a series of Youtube videos posted by an airline pilot, which highlighted the ineptness of its security procedures.

So they dispatched a team of federal and local agents to his Northern California home to intimidate him.

The feds ended up seizing his firearm – which he had been allowed to carry into the cockpit. And the local sheriff’s department ended up revoking his concealed weapons permit.

And he still may face further civil penalties for what the TSA calls “disclosure of sensitive security information.”

But all he did was show the obvious, including how airplane ground crews are allowed to bypass the entire TSA security theater with a swipe of a card.

In other words, while you and your fellow passengers are getting your nail clippers confiscated and your genitals scrutinized, the people loading your luggage under the plane are given a free pass.

The 50-year-old pilot asked that his name not be used in the news report.

“As you can see, airport security is kind of a farce. It’s only smoke and mirrors so you people believe there is actually something going on here,” the pilot narrates.

Video shot in the cockpit shows a medieval-looking rescue ax available on the flight deck after the pilots have gone through the metal detectors. “This looks a little more formidable than a box cutter, doesn’t it?” the pilot asks rhetorically.

December 21st, 2010

Los Angeles Teen Incarcerated Seven Months for Videotaping Cop 0

By Carlos Miller

It’s been more than seven months since 18-year-old Jeremy Marks has been incarcerated in a Los Angeles jail for videotaping a police officer.

Seven months since they charged him with obstructing an officer, resisting arrest, criminal threats and “attempted lynching.”

Seven months since they told him he could serve seven years in prison for his “crime.”

Now they’re offering him a plea deal where he would serve 32 months in prison if he would just plead guilty to all the charges except the lynching charge.

But there is no evidence he did anything other than videotape an altercation between Los Angeles Unified School District police officer and a student who had been smoking a cigar.

 LAUSD police officer Erin Robles spotted a 15-year-old student at a bus stop smoking a cigar and confronted him about it.

 The boy apparently gave her some lip, which prompted Robles to grab him in a choke hold and hold him against a bus.

Witnesses said the cop then bashed the teen’s head against the window of the bus, which was when several students pulled out cell phones to record the altercation.

The two videos that have made it online (posted below) show a female cop who has no control of the situation as the 15-year-old teen she is holding is continually taunting her by telling her to hit him and knocking her hand away.

She is holding a baton but the videos do not show her strike him, even though she admitted in her report that she struck him three times in the legs with the baton.

But Marks, who is wearing a gray shirt and standing on the far side near the end of the sidewalk next to a teen in a white shirt, is never seen interfering nor taunting.

However, police claim he yelled “kick her ass,” which is where they got the attempted lynching charge from.  And which is why his bail was set at $155,000, which his parents have been unable to afford.

 According to the Los Angeles Weekly:

The first thing to understand is that Jeremy Marks touched no one during his “attempted lynching” of LAUSD campus police officer Erin Robles.

The second is that Marks’ weapon was the camera in his cell phone.

The third is that Officer Robles’ own actions helped turn an exceedingly minor wrongdoing — a student smoking at a bus stop — into a state prison case.

No charges were ever filed against the teen who was smoking and Marks was not detained until several minutes after the altercation after he had wandered to a nearby McDonalds parking lot.

Pittman says her son and two of his friends walked to McDonalds after the excitement was over. At McDonalds, “Police cars came flying from everywhere, jumped out on my son with their guns pointed right at him, yelling and screaming for him to get on the ground,” she says.

Police claim he resisted arrested at McDonalds but several witnesses told the Weekly that he did not resist at all.

Besides, even if he did, what were they detaining him for in the first place?

In Florida, you are allowed to resist (non-violently) an unlawful arrest. Not sure how it is in California.

Police also claim that Marks picked up Robles’ pepper spray after she dropped it in her altercation with the smoking teen.

However, Robles herself stated that it was some kid named “Victor” who tried to grab her pepper spray after she had dropped it.

Robles claims that Marks was doing nothing but standing in the vicinity of the altercation, which is not a crime considering police had not roped it off with crime tape.

“I was very scared,” Robles testified. “I got my O.C. spray to control (the 15-year-old student) that was facing me, and went to spray him. Sprayed him for about one, maybe two seconds. He had hit the pepper spray out of my hands and it landed in between the bus and the sidewalk in the gutter. It was starting almost a riot.

“It was getting very, very wild. There was screaming, people were walking behind me. There were individuals trying to reach for my O.C. spray that had fallen on the ground. I was screaming for help on my radio. I could not leave that weapon there for all the juveniles and a few adults, as well, in the area. So after the O.C. had fallen out of my hands, I used my right hand and got my baton out next.

“There is a subject by the name of ‘Victor’ that went after my O.C. spray, a minor as well. And also — defendant (Jeremy Marks) wasn’t necessarily going to grab it, but he was walking around me — made me believe that he was. I believe when I told (Officer Gilbert) Rea that (Jeremy Marks) was in the area — I don’t know what conclusions (Officer Rea) formed when he was writing the [incident report], or this Arrest Report.”

The article reveals a huge number of contradictions in the police reports, so I suggest reading the entire article, even though it is lengthy.

It’s obvious there is a huge injustice going on here and they are simply using Marks as a scapegoat either because they screwed up in arresting him in the first place or because they are embarrassed that one of their own was unable to handle a skinny 15-year-old kid.

It’s probably a combination of both.

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