Category Archives: design

Flip Mino HD. Empty. Time Left: 3:33. What?

Flip Mino HD failWe went on an overnight camping trip several weeks ago now. Several hours prior to leaving, I connected our Flip Mino HD to my (Ubuntu Linux) laptop to copy over the movie clips and recharge the unit. I did what I’ve done many times before: copied the files over, deleted them off the camera from the PC’s file explorer window, and that’s been it.

Except this time, when I whip out the camera for the first time on our trip. I’m now in the middle of nowhere, camping. Looking at the Flip Mino HD’s display, I notice there’s only 3:33 (three minutes, thirty-three seconds) of available recording time. But I erased the videos… or did I?

I double-check. The camera’s empty, it tells me. Umm, now what? I whip out my smartphone, so I can try to get online and check Google for any other instances of this problem. I find mention of a reset procedure using the pinhole inside the tripod mount hole on the bottom of the Flip. I had not known there was a hole and reset switch there before this, so hey, this could be great!

The hole itself is super-tiny. I finally managed to locate something small enough to insert into that hole (I pulled a staple out of some service documents for our Pilot from the glove compartment, straightened it out, and used that) and press the reset switch. The hole is that small, seriously. No ballpoint pen tip will work here. You need a needle or pin or thinner.

Hold the switch for 5 seconds. Then turn the unit back on, and without touching any of the buttons, wait another 5 seconds. Or something like that, I no longer recall.

Except, it didn’t work. Turns out this is a soft-reset for fixing the sensitivity of the touch controls, and that’s apparently it. Where’s a proper hard-reset, Flip?

I almost brought my laptop along, but didn’t because it was just an overnight thing. I was tempted to bring our Acer netbook, but didn’t. So we had no PC available. I break out my phone again. We’re not exactly in the best place for cell reception. I have a single bar if I walk up the hill from our camp site, face west, and hold the phone up like I’m engaged in some sort of offering ritual. My phone clearly doesn’t like being starved for towers, and the battery’s been draining since we got there, seeking and seeking away…

I finally manage to pull up Flip’s website using Pocket IE. I start filling out the form on their support page, because Flip apparently only offers email support. What? No phone number to call? This is a miss for Flip. Sure, they say it’s a 4-hour window for a response, so whatever; I’m thinking it’s better than nothing even if it’s kind of crappy having to wait.

I get the form as filled out as much as I can, but the site uses Javascript that Pocket IE apparently doesn’t comprehend, and I’m stuck. Can’t submit my support question. Pocket IE is an arguably common mobile browser; and it seems reasonable enough to make a support page simple enough that any functional browser should be able to access and use it.

I had similar results on my phone with Opera Mini, by the way.. and then we hit the point where my smartphone finally died from a drained battery… And after all this, the Flip still sits there, taunting me with it’s “Time Left: 3:33” display and continued insistence there are no videos on the device.

It would also only record 3:33 of video before stopping as it does when it’s normally full. I’ll basically have to know in advance if the next 3:33 I record will be more awesome and save-worthy than the previous 3:33 recording… This is terrible!

I wasted about an hour pecking away on my phone at this point, for nothing.

I only have my smartphone’s car charger along for our camping trip. I plug the phone into the car and left it to charge a bit. I come back later, managing to post to Twitter, hoping that maybe, just maybe, Flip monitors Twitter? Let’s try…

Flip Not Listening to Twitter #1

Flip Not Listening to Twitter #2

Flip Not Listening to Twitter #3

Flip Not Listening to Twitter #4

Apparently Flip does not monitor Twitter. As of this writing–now more than a month later–we have still not received any kind of response to any of my Flip-related tweets. Clearly it’s not going to happen. This is yet another (series of) miss(es) for Flip.

We have since learned that they do seem to barely maintain a @FlipVideoBrand account, though:

@FlipVideoBrand Crickets TwitterYou can guess: no response to that tweet, either. Flip, come on.

So we eventually return from our trip. Short, fun trip. Kids are young, fun, had a blast with us, each other, their cousins, and their grandparents. It really would have been great to have caught some video of their antics. We have… none. Huge disappointment.

Now at home, I plug the Flip camera into my laptop and look at the files and folders on the unit. The DCIM folder is empty. Fine, but the computer’s also telling me I only have a puny amount of free storage on the Flip, which seems wrong but consistent with the storage shortage issue. I don’t normally use the Flip software at all, by the way–ever, in fact, because I run Linux on my main laptop and the software’s not compatible. I notice a couple of folders with fairly recent dates on them: .cache and .Trash-nnn. Ohhhh. At this point, I delete those two folders. Suddenly my laptop reports 3.7GB free… and it seems we’re fixed.

I unplug the camera and fire it up. “Time Left: 60:00”. Hurr-freakin’-rrrah.

The problem? It looks like I forgot to “Empty Trash” before I unplugged the camera from my laptop, to flush those deleted images from the camera completely. Oops. But still, this should not be the showstopper it became!

Anyway, we’re now all charged up, and storage capacity is back to normal. Too late for this trip, but fixed nonetheless, it seems.

During all of this troubleshooting and searching/researching, I discovered I had missed Flip’s release of their Ultra HD camera. Two hours recording time, HDMI out, takes rechargeable (or regular) AA batteries… might work out better for us. Time to look for that Costco receipt?

How could this have been made better? Offhand:

  • Flip could more closely monitor Twitter. They obviously have at least one account. They’re a hip company with a great product; a well-maintained Twitter presence at this point is a complete no-brainer.
  • Flip’s website should not suck. Support pages that don’t support mobile devices isn’t helping anyone that’s out and needs help.
  • Flip should provide phone support. I’ve since read that they do, but I was unable to find this information when I needed it (and I’ve still not yet seen direct evidence of this myself).
  • Flip cameras should support a hard reset if they don’t already. I understand the Flip software is stored on the unit, but there needs to be some way to wipe out and fully reclaim the storage capacity of the unit without requiring a PC to do so. Again, if this is an option, I could not find it when I needed it.
  • The reset hole could be larger. Apparently not directly related to my situation, but even if the Flip had an available hard-reset option, I would have had a very hard time engaging it using the existing reset hole without something as thin as a straightened staple or needle that few people carry around with them on the go.
  • And finally: I could have not been an idiot when I failed to empty the trash after deleting the images from the camera. However, if we had a hard reset option, I could have still fixed the problem in the field without a PC to help, and we’d have more great videos of our kids!

And that’s about it. We still really love the camera a lot, overall; we take more video now than we ever did with a traditional camcorder. We’d happily take an Ultra HD or two as compensation for our troubles, Flip… Are you listening?

Indie Games Con 2007

Indie Games Con (IGC) 2007 is in Eugene, Oregon on Oct. 10-11th, hosted by GarageGames. From the IGC site:

Indie Games Con (IGC) is a fun, informal and informative gathering of independent game developers from around the world. IGC is designed to be a summit meeting of like-minded developers with the shared goal to focus on collaboration and building community. This is an unprecedented opportunity to meet other indie developers, professional guest developers, hardware manufactures as well as the GarageGames staff.

I’ve never been to this one, but friends and colleagues who have tell me it’s a great mix of information and fun. Registration is still open; if you’re (avail)able, check it out.

IF 2007 competition

The 13th annual interactive-fiction competition, IF 2007, is now underway. Voting is a bit involved, demanding a fair amount of your time, but totally worth it, in my opinion, if you’re into interactive fiction at all. Downloading the text-based games is entirely free, available via .zip or .torrent. There are 29 IF entries this year, so you can choose to be very, very busy indeed…

What is interactive fiction, you ask? Think early Zork, or any of the earlier Infocom games. Very imaginative, very detailed, and often very challenging. And always entertaining. Oh–and no graphics!

As both art and programming, interactive fiction has a very, very long history and legacy which continues quite strongly today. There is a lot of variety and material to choose from, be it playful roleplaying and puzzle-solving, or more deep and serious interactive prose.

There is plenty of software to get you going creating your own interactive fiction, too, like TADS, Hugo, and Inform, among others. I use Inform 7, personally (which is freely available). Inform’s latest version uses a fairly sophisticated natural language model to create IF, so you might write/’program’ something like this regarding your kitchen and refrigerator:

Inform 7 natural-language programming code

which then gives you this experience as the player:

Inform gameplay

Much more complex interactions are possible, of course…

There is a TON of info available online, if you’re interested in creating your own IF; is also fantastic for support and discussion if you’re a Usenet/newsgroups person.

There is another Usenet group,, that’s more for people playing rather than developing IF. The easiest way to check out both groups is to use Google Groups.

The IF community is really great, willing to answer questions, offer suggestions, all ultimately toward helping to keep IF alive. Most if not all share their games and their code, too, so you can play their games, read their stories, and participate in their created adventures, or use their code to help you learn how to better your own.

If you’re interested in playing old Zork and other Infocom/Adventure International/etc text adventures/games, quite a few of them are available online to play, usually for free. A Google search should find quite a few of them for you. And again, you’re strongly encouraged to try to create your own sometime!

Happy Frotzing!