A Quick & Dirty Overview of Common Video Compression Technology

Video compression is all about removing redundant data to reduce video file sizes so that the files can easily be sent over a network and stored. The general rule of compression is that the higher the compression level, the smaller the file size and the lower the image quality.

The most widely used video compression format in use today is MPEG-2, which is the format used for DVD disks and non-HD cable and satellite television broadcasts. This format is not suitable for surveillance applications, though, because of the high data bandwidth required to transmit the images. There are three newer compression formats right now that are much more suitable for surveillance applications; Motion JPEG, MPEG-4 and H.264.

Motion JPEG: is a digital video format that is comprised of a series of individual JPEG images. Each video frame is encoded in its entirety and transmitted. Motion JPEG is a form of video compression that is very reliable, since even if frames are dropped, the overall video really isn’t affected very much, because each frame has all of the information required to reconstruct the original video frame. This feature also makes Motion JPEG the only format suitable for forensic use in surveillance applications, since each frame is a complete image. The only real downside to Motion JPEG is that the compression does not take advantage of all of the redundancy that is inherent in transmitting video images, where most of the information stays the same from video frame to video frame. Thus, more bandwidth is required to transmit the images and more storage space is required.

MPEG-4: is used widely in the surveillance industries and fully supports low-bandwidth applications and applications that require very high-quality images. MPEG-4 encoding differs from Motion JPEG encoding due to the fact that different frames transmit different types of image data. In MPEG-4 encoding a reference frame is sent every so often that contains all of the video image data. Then, the next few frames are sent containing only the parts of the image that have changed from the original reference frame. This greatly reduces the amount of data that must be sent to reconstruct the image. Initially MPEG-4 was aimed at low bit-rate video communications. The down side is that if a reference frame gets lost due to transmission errors, it takes longer to reconstruct the video and restore the video quality. It was much later that the standard was expanded upon to be efficient across a variety of bit-rates ranging from a few kilobits to tens of megabits per second.

H.264: is the latest high-tech extension of the MPEG-4 video encoding standard. The H.264 standard (also known as MPEG-4 AVC) was created to be capable of providing good quality video at even lower bit rates than all previous standards, like MPEG-4. A system using H.264 can reduce the file size of a digital video image without compromising any image quality. This means you will see crisp, clear video in much smaller files, saving you bandwidth and storage costs over the previous generations of video codecs. This compression technology is especially useful in surveillance of highways, airports, casinos and other applications that require the ability to recognize very detailed objects, like a person’s face. You are already familiar with the high quality of this format if you have viewed a Blu-ray Disc playback.

H.264 is emerging as the industry leader for video compression. It is fully compatible across many platforms allowing video to be viewed on any computer without specialized software. By improving the compression standards upon which the codec is based, you can transmit higher quality video using the same bandwidth.


TeCHS Ventura, CA


Your Digital Life Simplified!

Keep Your Personal Information Safe: A Few More Tips

Just a few tips to help protect yourself from identity theft and fraud. Thieves use a variety of methods for obtaining other people’s personal information to exploit for their own purposes. There is no guarantee that anyone’s information is 100% safe, no matter how careful you are, but you can do a lot of small things to reduce your risks of being a victim of fraud.

1.) Never click on links in emails or links on web sites that you don’t know or don’t trust. If you get an email from “your bank” saying you need to log into your account right away for any reason, but you aren’t sure the email is actually coming from your bank then don’t click on any links in that email. Open a new internet browser, type in the URL yourself and then log in to your account and make sure everything is as it should be. If a link doesn’t feel right, don’t click it.

2.) Don’t share your passwords, credit card numbers, social security numbers or any other pertinent information with anyone.

3.) Don’t write your passwords down anywhere someone could stumble upon them. It’s best if you don’t keep written records of your passwords, but with the amount of passwords people need now, it’s getting a bit more complicated to keep track of them all without writing them down.

4.) Never write your full account numbers on your checks when you pay your bills, especially when paying credit card bills, just write in the last four digits of your account number.

5.) Keep your credit cards and your passport in RFID communication blocking wallets.

6.) Switch over to paperless billing and statements. Pretty much everyone now-a-days offers paperless statements… banks, credit cards, house-hold billing companies. Having them all delivered to your email inbox instead of your physical address saves paper, postage and also eliminates the possibility of someone stealing your mail.

7.) Don’t broadcast that you are leaving town, or that you are out of town, on social networking sites. That is sort of like putting up a flashing neon sign over your house that says “no one is home and no one will be home for a while, so come on in and take what you want.” Wait until you return home from your trip to talk about it.

Basically the gist of everything I’ve written is: be careful with the personal information that you give out.

We all do a lot of shopping online which means we are all typing our credit card numbers into lots of different company websites. Make sure the company you purchase from is reputable. If something seems too good to be true, it is. There is nothing free in life. Massive discounts on normally very expensive items from shady online stores are more often than not going to cost you a lot more than you think.




Your Digital Life Simplified!

Fooling Facial Recognition Software

Last week I wrote a blog about the technology of facial recognition systems and not long after it posted a few articles were presented to me about a pretty simple and effective way to fool these systems. Makeup. By putting dark blocks of makeup in strategic places on your face you can fool any facial recognition software. The blocks don’t even have to be very large; it’s more a matter of where the makeup is on the face. Granted, the makeup required to fool these systems will sort of make you look like you stepped out of an 80’s hair metal band music video but some people just might do it anyhow.

Fooling facial recognition

Some of the other ways to fool these systems are even easier and much less conspicuous than copious amounts of silly makeup. They include wearing a pair of glasses to hide your eyes, hiding your ears with long hair or a hat, facial jewelry, massive amounts of facial hair and even gaining weight can keep you from being recognized.

Even the security features used to lock down sensitive information isn’t immune to flaws. In another blog I mentioned that it is possible for criminals to crack biometric security systems forcibly but if the system relies solely on facial recognition, the system can be fooled with a simple photograph of the computer’s owner.

This sort of technology has come a long way but it looks like it needs a bit more work before it can truly be relied upon to safeguard important things.




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The Technology of Facial Recognition Systems

A Facial Recognition System identifies or verifies a person from a digital image or a video frame from a surveillance camera. These systems are typically used to in security and can be compared to other biometric data such as a fingerprint or iris pattern. These systems can identify a face by extracting features or landmarks from an image of the person; like the position and shape of their eyes, nose, cheekbones, jaw line and mouth. Some of these systems also capture the visual details of the person’s skin identifying unique lines, patterns, spots to analyze and match a person based on their skin’s texture.

The latest technology in facial recognition uses three-dimensional sensors to capture information about the shape of the face. That information is used to identify specific features such as the contour of the eye sockets, nose and chin. The 3D information is not affected by changes in lighting like other techniques are and it can identify a face from any viewing angle, even from the profile view, which makes this approach easier and more reliable.

The U.S. Department of State has one of the largest facial recognition systems in the world that they use for visa processing, various agencies worldwide use facial recognition in all sorts of criminal cases and arrests, it has been used to try to eliminate voter fraud, used as security measures at ATM machines, used as boarder control, and so much more.

The only weakness these systems seem to have is that they perform poorly on profile images. The photo of the face needs to be full frontal or at least pretty close to it. Poor lighting, sunglasses, long hair, big hats and other objects partially obscuring a person’s face also decrease the system’s ability to correctly recognize someone.

Of course these systems have raised yet another public outcry about invasion of privacy. People fear that this is just another step towards a “total global surveillance society” where the government and other like agencies will know who you are and what you are doing at all times. Whether or not this type of system will be abused or not remains to be seen.




Your Digital Life Simplified!

An Interview With TeCHS

Back in July TeCHS was interviewed by Ventura Business Reviews (.com).

Check it out!


Here is the interview from venturabusinessreviews.com:


July 2012

Interview with TeCHS

It was quite a pleasure interview the Techs, since we come from similar backgrounds. Knowing the importance of having someone that can assist you in home with your technology is crucial. Unfortunately there are a lot less ethical people out there that offer such services and take advantage of people that don’t know much about technology. That’s why we picks the TECHS as our featured listing for this type of service. Without further rambling from me….. here is the interview

What made you want to start this particular business?
Our objective with TeCHS was to provide a full range of services that integrate all digital aspects for the home consumer or small business owner.

If you had to pick one thing out of your day, what’s the most exciting / favorite?
An exciting part of our day is getting a panic call from a client, being able to respond quickly, and watching them when that “magic moment” happens and we not only solved their problem but showed them new ways to expand the use of their digital system.

Who is your ideal customer?

Our ideal customer is someone who has a lot of technology in his/her home or business and don’t have the time to figure it all out. We strive to make people’s everyday lives easier with technology – whether we are training them on how to use it or taking care of all of it for them.

What do you consider your biggest weakness?

With the changes in traditional marketing over the last few years we are striving to get a handle on new approaches to expand our customer base in the local market.

How are you improving on that weakness?

We are exploring alternative marketing strategies including social networking on FaceBook, LinkedIN, Yelp, YouTube, CraigsList, Etsy and more internet-based advertising.

What is your biggest strength?

We are experts at problem solving and re-analyzing customers’ digital systems to make them more efficient while saving them lots of money.

How do you like running your business?

As a full-service business, we are in contact with our customers 24/7. This is a lifestyle that we love, and we feel like our customers are our family. Our joy comes from helping individuals keep up with the latest technology and helping businesses control their overhead.

If you could change one thing about your businesses day-to-day routine, what would it be?

We would like to have more space for a larger inventory of parts without having to continually run to a store to fulfill our customer’s individual needs.

Any new specials you can tell your customers about?

All new customers receive 10% off their first service with us.

If you had a chance to say one thing to a brand new customer, before they walk in the door, what would it be?

We strive to be your one-stop-shop for all things digital – computers, cell phones, tablets, photography, graphics, marketing, tutoring and more! Flat-rate or hourly – we are among the most affordable computer gurus in Ventura County. We save you time and money!


Seth and Kim Ralph are your TeCHS. We are proud Ventura natives that

want nothing more than to keep everyone’s digital life running smoothly

and to keep business and money in our beautiful and wonderful county!

From the home to the local small business – we provide affordable, fast,

friendly and reliable services for all of your needs.

Connect with TeCHS!
Our website: https://www.ezdigitallife.com
FaceBook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/TeCHS/207649352605842
FaceBook Profile: http://www.facebook.com/ralph.techs
LinkedIN: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/kim-mcmillan-ralph/35/a17/3ab


TeCHS is a local, small 2-person, business committed to making your technology work better for you!

Flat-rate or hourly – we are among the most affordable computer technicians in Ventura county. We strive to save you time and money!

We install, support, service, repair, sync and configure all the digital aspects of your life.

TeCHS Flyer 2011

Our popular money-saving yearly maintenance contracts are the best way to keep all of your technology up to date, clean and performing at their peak. Ask us about setting up your contract today.

Contact us and let us know how we can make your digital life easier.


Please take a look at our web site for a full list of the services we offer, a bit about the two of us – your TeCHS, and more ways to get in touch with us.

Have a great day!




Your Digital Life Simplified!

Mass Surveillance – The Lighter Side

I write a lot of blogs about surveillance systems that sort of make the systems out to be the eye-in-the-sky “bad guys.” Something watching our every move and logging it all away somewhere. Everyone from big government, small cities and even our neighbors use surveillance systems to keep an eye out for one thing or another.

Yes, we are all being watched. We all are constantly caught on any number of cameras during our normal daily lives. Whether we visit a bank on our lunch break, drive down the street or grab a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop, we are passing numerous surveillance systems. Most of which we cannot see very well if at all.

There is quite a lot of public outcry about the invasion of privacy but there is another side to that coin. There are quite a few positives that are rarely considered. For example, what if you are accused of a crime you did not commit? It is possible to use the collection of video recordings and even your cell phone’s location to prove your innocence. These surveillance systems also help deter crime with their presence. A lot of companies even have “dummy” cameras in their system that do not actually work but their presence (and the possibility that it is working) deters crime and theft.

Who knows what the future will hold for surveillance. One thing I do know is that these systems will not be going away.




Your Digital Life Simplified!

Visible Light Communications (VLC) – practical and revolutionary new technology!

One of the more interesting and advanced new technologies in the works today is called Visible Light Communications (VLC) which uses visible light to transmit data communications – using ordinary lamps with both fluorescent and LED bulbs. Using visible light to transmit and receive data is revolutionary! Practically any device can be used with zero modifications; cell phones, computers, lamps, etc. Plus, the technology is completely harmless to electronics, humans, plants, animals or anything else that normally isn’t harmed by regular light.


In January of 2010 a major demonstration was conducted by Siemens and Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications where they showed transmission of 500 Mbps with a single white LED over 16 feet and 100 Mbps over a much larger distance using 5 white LEDs. Of course those two aren’t the only ones with VLC in mind for their latest innovations; we are seeing an explosion of technologies in multiple industries from multiple companies that range from traffic signals to cell phones to anti-theft devices.

The VLC technology isn’t going to replace the current wireless technologies anytime soon (like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth) but I think it will be a valuable asset for applications where RF isn’t available or can interfere with critical equipment (like hospitals and airports). Thus, with a little extra work, planning and money every new LED light fixture could be wired into existing networks to be able to communicate wirelessly to any device without using the crowded radio-frequency bands.




Your Digital Life Simplified!

2012 Ventura County Fair : Blue Ribbon

Good day everyone!
I am hijacking my company blog for a bit of bragging… One of your TeCHS, Kim, won a blue ribbon at the 2012 Ventura County Fair!

My digital masterpiece titled ICE QUEEN won first place in the photography contest in the digital arts division.

I was so excited to find out!
I have submitted many pieces to the fair over the years and this is the very first blue ribbon I have won.

Congratulations to all of the 2012 Fair winners in all categories. There were so many awesome entries this year – photography, fine art, agriculture and more! I love seeing what everyone creates for the fair every year. I look forward to 2013!!!

~ K. McMillan-Ralph, TeCHS



Your Digital Life Simplified!

Electronic Pickpocketing

How safe is your information?

With every new and innovate way to try to secure everyone’s personal information, thieves are finding new and scary ways to get at people’s data. Items that you use every day and carry with you everywhere could be making you vulnerable to an identity thief.

All U.S. Passports, credit cards, I.D.s, driver’s licenses and debit cards, since 2006, are issued with RFID tags that contain all sorts of very personal information. RFID tags in these types of items contain your name, your address, your credit card number, and all sorts of other very important information that you do not want strangers knowing and that could lead you to being a victim of identity theft. The RFID tags in all of these things are constantly transmitting tiny blips of information even when there is no receiver in the vicinity.


To someone with the right equipment, you are basically walking around with all of your pertinent information flashing over your head like a banner. The “right equipment” is also easier, cheaper and a lot more innocuous than one would think.

Pickpockets now-a-days don’t have to risk being caught with their hand in your pocket or purse because now they can purchase a simple credit card reader and a laptop and “lift” your information from your wallet just by walking past you. In a crowded place, like a sporting event or shopping mall, a thief can easily collect hundreds or thousands of people’s information in the span of a couple of hours all while looking like just another fan or shopper.

How can you protect your information from this kind of theft? Well, as crazy as it sounds, you can line your wallet with tin foil to help prevent the digital theft. If you prefer a nicer looking and slightly less “crazy-sounding” solution, any metalized nylon material will work nicely to disrupt the RDIF communications. Just do a quick Google search, there are plenty of companies out there that make very nice wallets, passport holders and clutches utilizing materials designed to block RFID.




Your Digital Life Simplified!

Free Online File Storage : The “Cloud”

Many companies, including Microsoft and Google, offer free online file storage to anyone who wants it. The companies tout the service as a boon to business users who can share information and files with colleagues without having to be limited by email file size restrictions.

With one of these services you can upload all sorts of files to the internet to share with anyone; including text documents, photos, movies, music and zipped archives. The upload then gives you a link that you can email instead of the actual file. It’s all very convenient and easy.


However, just how safe is your information once uploaded? Keeping your data on the web protects you from losing any of it if your computer crashes or is stolen but since it’s all on the web, basically anyone can view and download any file you upload. These remote backup systems are like virtual warehouses that can easily be hacked even with the advanced security features some of these companies use.

Also, if the online storage is the only place you have the file saved, you could lose everything in the blink of an eye. Say your online storage company goes under, your account gets hacked or your account gets terminated for some reason… you lose all of those files you had “stored.” So if you use one of these services to store your data make sure to keep backup copies on your local hard drive or burned on CD/DVDs.

This sort of file storage and sharing has been growing more and more popular over the last few years and just may totally replace USB jump drives and other media storage devices of that nature.

So, do you feel comfortable with your data floating around in “the cloud?”

Do you use online storage?

How about online backups?




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