Another Method of Digitizing Large Documents

A few years ago, I wrote about a method of using a modified scanner to scan large documents in segments. While this led to high quality results, it is a very slow and tedious process. More recently, I’ve had a decently large number of maps and documents to digitize but didn’t care so much about the quality and had neither the time nor the patience to scan them using my previous method. Instead, I turned a small conference room into a very large makeshift camera stand. After removing a tile from the drop ceiling, a small wooden beam was placed on the ceiling grid, straddling the hole where the tile was removed. A DSLR camera was then attached to this beam, pointing straight down, with the camera tethered to a computer via USB. A table was placed under the camera. The document to be digitized was placed on the table, and a sheet of glass was placed on top of the document to keep it flat.1 The fluorescent tubes were removed from the closest ceiling light fixtures to remove glare from the glass; the same number of bulbs were removed from each side of the camera and table to keep the lighting consistent. Once everything was set up, documents were quickly photographed, with captures triggered using the computer. Once finished, lens distortion was removed from the images, and the images were cropped and level corrected. While the results weren’t nearly as nice as the scanner-based method, they were good enough for what I needed them for, and it was much, much faster. An example result is below.

Example Result

Unfortunately, I neglected to photograph the camera set up.


  1. The documents to be digitized had been stored either rolled or folded. 

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Second Generation Amazon Dash (Wand) Teardown

Back in September, I took apart the original Amazon Dash, but now there’s a new version, so I took it apart as well. The new product number is PL46MN; the old product number is ORS3YV.1 The original wand was very similar to the first generation Dash Button, and the second wand bears more than a passing resemblance to the second generation Dash Button. As with the original wand, the new version is essentially a Dash Button with a barcode scanner and a larger, user replaceable battery.

Amazon Dash in Box Continue reading


  1. As an aside, the original wand, FCC ID 2ABD7-5363, was a “Wireless Scanner” from “Violet L.L.C.” while the new wand, FCC ID 2AETI-0610, is a “Wireless Barcode Reader” from “Midnight Dawn LLC”. 

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Stabilizing 360 Video with Hugin

Although there are plenty of tools that work well for stabilizing regular video, there aren’t any good ones for stabilizing 360 degree video. As I was unable to find any freely available software that worked, I used various command line tools from Hugin and FFmpeg. Although this worked, it was extremely slow and had some issues with the horizon drifting.1 I can’t really recommend the approach, but I figured I’d post the technique in case anyone finds it to be useful. Hopefully Facebook with open source their 360 video stabilization, since it seems much better.
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  1. Manually adding some horizontal line control points in Hugin helped in this regard. 

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Pannellum 2.3

With eight months elapsed since the release of Pannellum 2.2, it was time to release a new version of Pannellum. Actually, the release was well past due considering the plethora of bugfixes since the previous release, but there was a bug blocking the release, and it took me a while to find time to fix it. Now that I fixed the bug, I was able to release Pannellum 2.3 today. The major new feature in the release is support for the device orientation API such that panoramas can be explored on mobile devices by moving the device itself; this involved adding some quaternion-based calculations to determine where the device was pointing and extending viewer roll support to the cubemap and multi-resolution renderers.1 The other area that saw considerable improvement was the API, with an events framework and numerous new methods added. However, the bulk of the changes were small, consisting of a number of minor improvements and dozens of bugfixes. For a more complete list of improvements, see the changelog.


  1. Roll was already supported in the equirectangular renderer to handle Ricoh Theta S images.  

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Amazon Dash (Wand) Teardown

The Amazon Dash, not to be confused with the Amazon Dash Button, is a device for adding items to an AmazonFresh order, either through voice commands or via its barcode scanner. Recently, someone who had read my Dash Button teardown sent me one he had received for free and taken apart, to see if I could glean more information about it. The hardware can be summarized as a first generation Dash Button with a larger, user replaceable battery and a barcode scanner.

Amazon Dash Continue reading

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