Posts tagged Fail

NiZn PowerGenix Batteries

I’ve been meaning to write about a set of interesting new rechargeable AA batteries I came across for a while now. Last year (wow, has it really been that long?) I came across a review on engadget of some PowerGenix NiZn (Nickel Zinc) rechargeable batteries which promised better performance, higher voltage than NiMH, and greater capacity. I was compelled to invest in some otherwise experimental and new rechargeables for a few reasons:

Doing indoor photography with my girlfriend – especially weddings – it becomes apparent just how many AAs you can go through quickly. So many that it’s relatively expensive and prohibitive to keep up and carry all those batteries around. They’re expensive, and just don’t last long enough. One or two hundred shots or so, if I recall correctly.

SB600 Flash

Anyhow, right after getting them and charging them, I decided to shoot a wedding with my SB600 flash and the NiZn batteries. I was immediately floored at how fast the flash recharged and how performance never seemed to fade like alkalines do. Usually, flash performance seems to fall off exponentially with the generic alkaline batteries – eventually the time it takes to recharge gets so long you can’t take photos of anything. So what’s useful about the NiZn was the hugely fast, super quick recharge time.

That’s also… the problem. While shooting that wedding, I managed to somehow completely blow out the flash. This thing was under 2 months old, used at a few other weddings, without what I’d consider very many activations at all. The SB600 apparently has no thermal cutoff at all, allowing the whole thing to overheat. Whatever the case, while shotgunning some photos of the dance floor in low light, it stopped working. The flash didn’t feel notably hot, but the flash showed an error on the screen and wouldn’t work from then on. Anyhow, I shipped the flash back into Nikon and had a replacement about a month later, but the point is that I’m now far too scared to repeat the “experiment” again.

It seems that two things are possible:

  • The SB600 lacks adequate/any thermal protection preventing the flash from overheating or being fired too quickly
  • The SB600 possibly relies on alkaline AA battery performance to prevent the flash from being overheated
    • I realize that the NiZn PowerGenix batteries are 1.6 volts (as opposed to the 1.5 standard for alkaline, and 1.2 for NiMH). At the same time, there should definitely be regulation of some kind preventing failure.

The batteries themselves are remarkable in their performance, but it’s that which scares me out of using them in the flash where they’re needed most.

NiZn PowerGenix AA Batteries

What brings this all up is that engadget compared the PowerGenix batteries to some of the other new (and exotic) choices from Energizer and Sanyo Eneloop, and I left a comment.

I purchased the NiZn batteries after your initial review and was super stoked when they came. I’m an avid digital photographer, and replacing flash batteries at a wedding actually gets expensive enough to make buying a bunch of rechargables worthwhile.

That said, I had a brand new SB600 (just like yours) burn out with no warning while shooting with the NiZn batteries. I had to ship the whole thing in and get it replaced. I browsed the Fred Miranda forums some time later and found a bunch of people with the same issue – the SB600 relies on Alkaline batteries simply not being able to drive enough power quick enough when shotgunning that flash to avoid burning out. There isn’t any thermal safeguard.

So be warned, even though you’re testing on an SB600, if you actually do go out and abuse the batteries like you would at a big event firing the flash a lot, you WILL nuke your stuff. I’m too scared to use my NiZn batteries now.

That Fred Miranda forum thread I mentioned is here.

How Not to do a Live Stream


Like many others yesterday, I eagerly awaited the Microsoft CES keynote and the chance to see Steve Ballmer once again have a Developers Developers Developers moment on stage.  Although it was initially marred by a power outage which delayed the conference some 20 minutes and damaged a Media Center TV and an ASUS eeeTV demo, what really made me pull the plug was what Microsoft did to the live stream itself.

Initially it was plagued with audio problems. The stream started too quiet, then suddenly lost the left channel, then the left channel came back but killed the right channel. At one point I’m certain there was some sort of loop in a volume normalization system, as gain increased continually for at least an entire minute. Of course, these issues are technical and completely understandable given the fact that nearly everything needed to be restarted after the power outage.

So imagine my disgust, and the disgust of others, when during the Microsoft Xbox 360 part of the keynote, the following comes up right as they prepare to show the Halo Reach trailer:

Microsoft LiveStreams, now with DRM

Absolutely incredible, censoring a live keynote because of IP concerns from the very company throwing the keynote. Even better, apparently the Xbox team wasn’t made aware that there was any problem at all with what was going to be shown:

Sorry that had to black that out….I did not know :(t -Major Nelson

Even more strange, the content that was shown wasn’t new, in spite of the fact that the announcer lead-up to the video made it sound like it was going to be. It was nothing more than the Halo Reach trailer released over a month ago.

It’s a video…not a #haloreach demo. -Major Nelson

Why then did this content merit censoring the live stream for nearly 3 minutes? Is Microsoft not comfortable with using the public spectacle and attention that is CES to promote its own products and games? Is it honestly concerned that showing a trailer for a game in a live video stream constitutes some sort of breach in IP? What?

That, by itself wouldn’t be noteworthy, it was what followed that really iced the proverbial cake for the Keynote.

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice...

Yes. They did it again. If you’re so inclined, the video is here for everyone to view, now that we’ve been all made feel like children.

There is seriously so much wrong with doing something like this to the thousands of people watching the live stream that aren’t at CES but are still interested, that I don’t even know where to begin. In fact, I don’t even have to, because so much of that is obvious. But not, apparently, to Microsoft. Shortly after was when I stopped watching.

Nice of Microsoft to leave end-user-facing employees that work and try hard like Major Nelson to pick up all the pieces:

Reagarding[sic] the Reach blackout on the stream…..I am going to talk to some folks about that #notcool -Major Nelson

Ok, I need to take a walk and have a little chat with some folks. -Major Nelson

Fast Forward to Today

Imagine how shocked I was today, when during Paul Otellini’s Intel CES keynote the following popped up on the livecast:


I’m still not entirely certain whether, once again, the stream had been interrupted due to intellectual property concerns, DRM, or simply because they didn’t want to show more 3D parallax (despite having done so just minutes before).

Whatever the case, this seriously needs to stop.