Simplicity: The Pure Digital Technologies Flip Ultra Case Study
I have a cat. Actually, I have two cats (along with a dog), but this writeup will focus on Charlene, whose quirks you’ve encountered before (several times, actually). Charlene (aka ‘Weenie’) has other notable idiosyncrasies beyond the ones I’ve already written about. She likes to chew on plastic bags…but only while I’m preparing her breakfast. And throughout the day, she’s prone to vigorous ‘kneading’ (complete with abundant drool bubbles) of various soft objects, including blankets, pillows, and (sigh) my abdomen.
My friend in San Diego also has a cat. My friend’s cat doesn’t knead, or so my friend claims, and since one possible theory for the behavior (quoting Wikipedia) is that it’s:
a remnant of the newborn kneading of the mother’s teat to stimulate milk secretion
My friend believes that Charlene’s actions reflect the fact that my cat was prematurely separated from its mother. Which actually makes sense; Charlene was one member of a feral litter, living under a neighbor’s shed, that I rescued from a fire (which forced the mother cat to flee) several years ago.
My friend also thinks that Charlene’s actions are (more than) a little weird. But then again, my other cat Jackson also kneads (admittedly not with the same ongoing enthusiasm as his sister). And since Wikipedia also states (bolded emphasis is mine):
Kneading is an activity common to all domestic cats
I gotta wonder just which one of us really has the weird cat
Anyhoo…My friend has never witnessed Charlene’s kneading performances. What better excuse, I thought, to finally try out the Pure Digital Technologies Flip Ultra flash memory-based camcorder that’s been sitting here unused and collecting dust for almost two years now:
Mine’s a first-generation model, introduced in the fall of 2007, with 2 GBytes of integrated flash memory leading to up to 60 minutes of standard-definition video capture capability (the company unveiled a second-generation model with 2 hours of recording time earlier this year). Flip Video and its products were showcased in an excellent article in Wired Magazine’s September issue, which discussed the ascendance of ‘good enough’ technologies that trade feature set robustness for intuitive operation. Regular readers know this is a theme that I also explore on an ongoing basis…
Wired was right; the Flip Ultra was incredibly easy to use. I popped in two AAs (a commodity battery scheme of which I’m always fond). I flicked the power switch. I centered intently kneading Charlene in the diminutive color LCD. I punched the big red ‘record’ button on the back. I periodically adjusted the 2x digital zoom, activated by the back panel rocker switch. And four minutes later, when Charlene was finished (for the moment, at least), I pressed the red button again to end the capture session.
I downloaded and installed the latest-and-greatest software build to my MacBook Air. I plugged in the Flip Ultra, which comes with a built-in USB connection, and was prompted to update the camera’s firmware. A few minutes later, the Flip Ultra was upgraded, with the previously archived video clip still safely stored inside. And with a single mouse click, after entering my account credentials, the Flipshare software automatically transcoded and uploaded Charlene’s performance (complete with inadvertently and clearly captured audio commentary by yours truly) to YouTube for subsequent (private) viewing.
Charlene’s kneading clip isn’t in high definition, but that’s no biggie; the content’s the key, not the pixel count. And should I want to migrate to HD in the future, the company’s still got me covered. This writeup may seem ironic to some of you, considering my past expressed enthusiasm for HDV and AVCHD camcorders. And to be clear, those higher-end products also have a valid place in the video ecosystem. But Wired’s right; for many folks, and in many situations, a more elementary approach is definitely ‘good enough’. Cisco apparently agrees, too. If you’re trying to figure out the optimum balance between capability and ease-of-use for your next system design, you could do a lot worse than pick up a Flip Video camera and use it as discernment mentor.