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5 Random Things I Did This Weekend

Here’s the roundup from this past weekend, from domed cameras to tall buildings and night trail runs.

1) Unboxed a 360° Action Camera

All sorts of new items floated into the mailbox on Friday.  To begin, I had ordered the new Kodak SP360 action camera, which records a 360° view at all times.  It also allows you to take 360° photos.

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I’ll give them serious props for a solid accessories bundle.  All of the below were included.

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Now, one such mount above was a pseudo-GoPro adapter. This is common on most non-GoPro action cams these days as it allows compatibility with the massive GoPro mount ecosystem (both 1st and 3rd party).  Except, you’ll notice it actually has one additional ‘blade’ on the mount portion, so while it works with GoPro accessories, there are some limitations.

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Said limitation would immediately become apparent during the unboxing of the next item.  Below is the Polar Pro GoPro power pole.  This pole actually has a built-in battery and two USB ports at the top.  It means you can attach your GoPro to it and power it all day long (about 6 hours of continuous battery power).  I found it on Kickstarter a while back.

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What’s nice is that with two generic USB ports, you can pretty much power anything; of course, it’s designed for GoPro’s (and, works well for that).

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So I figured I’d combine the Kodak 360° camera with the Power Pole. Unfortunately, the two don’t play well together.  They sorta fit, but when it comes to making them tight enough so it doesn’t flop around – not so much.  It seems to be a joint problem with how both companies implemented the screw portions of their mounts.

Of course, as I’d come to realize, it doesn’t much matter – as from what I can determine this far, the Kodak camera isn’t exactly awesome.  I took a slew of night shots and videos over the weekend – and the quality was early-2000’s picture quality in most cases.  Here’s the unit up on top of a very tall building:

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But, the picture quality is almost acceptable if it weren’t for the apps.  There doesn’t appear to be any method to actually embed a 360° video/photo onto a page, nor any way to share it on social media pages.  You can either send a stupid snow-globe (static image), or, you can send a massively wide 360° image (also dumb).  I’ve asked the Kodak folks for a better option, but given their marketing site doesn’t have any such functionality shown either – I’ve gotta believe it doesn’t exist.

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Of course, lack of such functionality kinda-sorta-completely defeats the purpose of a 360° action camera.  Simply providing a crop of an image is lame.  Of course, you wouldn’t want a crop anyway, as again, the photo/video quality is dismal.

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Yes, seriously. For real. Biggest waste of $400 I’ve spent in a while.

2) Went up in a very tall tower in Paris

As you might be able to tell from the previous section, we went up in one of the tallest buildings in Paris – Tour Montparnasse.  It stands at 210m high, though, the Eiffel Tower is still higher at 324m high (and one other building in the business district is about 20 meters higher than Tour Montparnasse).

Despite having been here a while (both us and the tower), we hadn’t been up it yet.  It’s said to have some of the best views in Paris.  In part because you can see the Eiffel Tower quite well, and the other part in that it’s the only place in Paris you can’t see Tour Montparnasse itself (which is often considered an eyesore).

Ignoring the fact that the viewing lobby looks like it’s from the 1980’s (even though it was renovated in 1996), it’s not too bad.  Plus, there was zero line at all on a Sunday afternoon.

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The Tour has two viewing areas, one inside that you can walk around with floor to ceiling glass, and then a second up top on the roof.  It’s nice that it’s the legitimate roof roof, versus some not-quite-at-the-top section like many tall buildings.

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Unfortunately, the reasonably priced wine/champagne bar that’s normally on the roof was closed (perhaps for the winter), so we couldn’t quite enjoy that despite the warm weather.

We did however get to watch the usual Sunday roller blading group gathering to go past down far below.  You can see the yellow shirts at the front (left) and guarding the intersection as the group rolls through.  These are the staff that assist with the event.  At the end are more yellow shirts followed by a few police cars.  Pretty cool.  There’s also a far larger one on Friday nights too.

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3) They installed the Christmas Tree…hopefully it won’t fall over.

Earlier in the week they started installing the gigantic Christmas tree at Notre Dame.  Last year, there was a minor issue in that during a not-so-strong wind storm the tree fell over.  It was likely due to the tree base they used being about the same size as the one I use on our home Christmas tree.

Of course, last year the tree also had approximately one string of lights on it, and made Charlie Brown’s tree look decadent.  We thought last year when it tipped over a certain someone was trying to send a message: This tree is fugly.  Regrettably it looked even worse after they stood it back up again with two concrete blocks.

This year though, they came with a beast of a base for the tree.  You can see it in the below photo to the right of the tree.  Someone apparently got the order for “build Christmas tree stand that won’t tip over”, and decided to build it for a redwood tree…in the middle of a CAT5 hurricane.

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But even better than the stand is that this year it actually looks rather pretty.  Giant ornamental balls and all.  Plus, down around the base of the tree there are a bunch of smaller Christmas trees.  And best of all it’ll soon be time to get our tree again at home as well.  By bicycle of course.

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4) Enjoying a bit of fall in the city

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With The Girl’s dad wrapping up his week-long trip to Paris, we did a bit more wandering around this weekend before his flight.

The weather was great though, pushing 61°F (~16°C), and mostly sunny.  The leaves have mostly changed colors and now cover the ground – it looks rather pretty.  And as always, Velib is the best way to get around most of the city.

That was especially true coming back from Sacré-Cœur, where it’s all downhill back to the heart of Paris.  Always one of my favorite Velib-ride routes back to home.

5) Went for a forest night run with The Girl

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Sunday night after our tower extravaganza we went out for a cross town run together.  Since it was a night run in a poorly lit area, bringing a camera seemed like a waste.

We ended up wandering through the park/forest in the dark, which was fun.  The route also went past the circus, where elephants were performing.

In retrospect, with the supposed missing tiger around here on the loose, perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to run through a forest at night near other wild animals that might be considered attractive.  Hmm…

No worries, we successfully made it to the Chateau without any extraneous kittens (household or wild) inducing additional intervals into the workout.  From there we just grabbed the straight-shot metro back to near our home.  Only takes about 10 minutes.  Perfect!

Thanks for reading all!  We’ve got my Winter 2014 Gadget Recommendations coming up later today.  Black Friday (and related) deals tomorrow, and plenty more for the rest of the week to keep ya busy/distracted.

Have a good week ahead!

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24 Comments

  1. David Lusty

    Blimey I don’t think I’ve seen you slate something like that before. I’m kind of surprised at the price tag looking at the output and apps, as a toy for $100 it may have been viable for xmas pressies for kids but for $400 it’s in the range of adult proper kit. Perhaps it’s just early days in the 360 cam space you may find someone sorts out embedding before long.

  2. Grzeg1

    I loved the Montparnasse view. You should go there sometime on less foggy day.
    Did you have a chance to test swimming metrics of v800 yet? Mine is not very accurate and stroke count is way off. Wondering how it compares to Garmin Swim or 920xt.

  3. 6co2000

    wikipedia says:
    Tour Maine-Montparnasse (Maine-Montparnasse Tower), also commonly named Tour Montparnasse, is a 210-metre (689 ft) office skyscraper located in the Montparnasse area of Paris, France. Constructed from 1969 to 1973, it was the tallest skyscraper in France until 2011, when it was surpassed by the 231 m (758 ft) Tour First.

    hence the old style looking…

  4. Hi!

    About the christmas tree – I think that the elaborately decorated christmas trees are an “american thing” that has made it’s tour around the world with the rest of the pop culture spreading and making it a staple. In Europe our trees tend to show that there actually is a tree under there :)

    On the link there is a picture of the town square christmas tree of my hometown. And it basically just has a string of lights on it. And to me it looks perfectly normal and christmasy.

    Although some of the shopping centres are beginning to cater for the more international crowd (read – russian shoppers from St. Petersburg) and decorate teir trees with lots of ornaments.

    link to y.delfi.ee

    The parisian tree stand is really something though :D I think they have permanent holes for the big trees in our town squares that they just cover up during the non-christmastree-time.

    Reader from Estonia :)
    (love your blog)

  5. Greg

    Pictures from last years charlie brown tree please!!! You cant talk that much smack about it and not show us the nightmare!

    Must have been a union job last year. Now it looks like a rocket launcher pad

  6. Mitch

    I enjoy following the blog. Wondering if I should be on the lookout for a black Friday sale list this year… Looking to pick up a Garmin running watch for the wife. In other news, I have been trying to get my hands on a Garmin 920 and they are sold out everywhere! So I would be surprised if anyone is offering a sale on that.

    • Black Friday deals will be out tomorrow. Definitely nothing though on the FR920XT, but plenty of other deals to come that should make waiting worthwhile for her.

      As for the FR920XT’s, it sounds like Clever Training will be caught up sometime in the next day or two, so stay tuned there. If you subscribe to comments on the FR920XT post, I’ll publish once they have stock in-hand.

    • Scott Buchanan

      Ray, would you happen to know if Garmin will be doing a 12 days of christmas promotion this year? I ask as they had a couple of 30% off any Garmin (not Vector) vouchers. Would upgrade to Edge 1000 and give some Garmin prezzies of they do.

    • Just got an email from Costco about Garmin 210 with HR strap for $139.99. I know it is older tech but a pretty decent deal for someone looking for just a running watch with HR capabilities.

    • No, there’s no 30% off Vector in the lineup as far as I know. Unfortunately the deals on the Vector units were this summer (was really an incredible deal with the discount + rebate + Clever Training 10% off). :(

    • The FR210 with HR strap is an OK deal, but I’d probably wait a few days…

  7. David Manley

    Nice Pandora bracelet Ray. You have very slender hands ;)

  8. Richard Kaufmann

    I had an Amazon credit burning a hole in my pocket, and am *so* glad I got a Hero4 Black instead of that Kodak 360. I fear Kodak is going down the Polaroid path (incredibly storied brand identity being milked for all its worth). And I say this as an old guy who was brought up on those little yellow film boxes!

    • Yeah, my thoughts as well, especially after looking at the Polaroid action camera too (sitting on the desk next to the Kodak). Interestingly, Nokia is trying the same licensing approach too. All once great brands trying to find their way.

  9. Al

    Have you seen/tried any other 360 cams?

    This one for example – link to geonaute.com

    In kayaking/surfski I think it would be a good tool as you could analyse stroke whilst also capturing the view ahead and the ocean conditions…..

    • The Geonaute guys and I talked frequently, at least until they basically split off and created their own unit and put it on Kickstarter as Giroptic (link to kickstarter.com). In theory it’s supposed to ship any day now…

      Based on what I’ve seen over the past few years and my many talks with them, they’re definitely the most promising 360* action camera out there. But of course, proof is in the pudding.

  10. I love the view from the Montparnasse tower, although I’ve only been up there at night. Fantastic viewing platform for the Eiffel Tower lights (and on my last visit the champagne bar was open!). After reading this I can’t wait for my next visit to Paris in April for the marathon :-)

  11. Jeff T.

    Tour Montparnasse – I will have to check it out this week! I’m visiting for a few days and have one question for you – favorite casual restaurant in your nieghborhood? (we are staying relatively close) I’ve been to Chez Janou before, and like it, any recommendations for something at a similar state of casualness?

  12. Helen

    My husband and I were in Paris this weekend – and I’m sure we saw you and The Girl on Vélibs up at the top of the Jardin du Luxembourg near the Port-Royal RER…which was totally bizarre as we were talking at the time about the yummy cupcakes we had bought from the cupcakery the day before! Small world, I reckon! Love the blog :-)

  13. David George

    You’re American so you probably like tall buildings but I always find the Montparnasse tower “too” tall. For a nice experience the piano bar at the Concorde Lafayette hotel is a good experience in the evening for a drink. Ask for a seat by the window. Lafayette is the guy who pulled George Washington’s ass out of the fire when he was getting beasted by the Brits. How he ended up running a hotel I don’t know; Lafayette not George Washington that is.