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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Some Brand-New Developments And Other Misc. Links

Some Breaking News and Other Miscellaneous Bits: 

A brand-new, portable bat detecting solution has just emerged. Made public, only hours ago. It is a joint effort: Between Dodotronic and iAudioApps. Here is a Link to one of several video Introductions.

Elekon has just announced a new Firmware update for The Batlogger! Below, is a paste of the latest e-mail Newsletter:
 
"Dear batfriends

We are pleased to present you the latest BATLOGGER Newsletter.
Have fun reading.

BATLOGGER M with new positioning module

With the new positioning module, the BATLOGGER M receives now in addition to the GPS also GLONASS satellite signals. This allows to process more satellites simultaneously and the time to the first position determination (TTFF) drops significantly, even in rather difficult reception conditions. The antenna is now completely inside the housing and no longer sticks out.

Software maintenance

In the download section new versions of BATLOGGER firmware (v2.3.3) and BatExplorer software (v1.10.4.0) are available. These mainly include bug fixes and stability improvements."
This is The Changelog for the new Batlogger firmware: 

"Version 2.3
(2.3.3 Released 30.04.2014)
- Fix/Improve interval recording mode
- Monitoring is now disabled per default and volume default is 2
- Respect SD-Card Write Protected switch (some devices only)"
 
A Link from Bat Conservation International (an article on attracting bats).

Avisoft's USG Player BL Pro  

Still Coming-up: Review of The BatLure from Apodemus!

Followed by the Review of The brand-new Echo Meter Touch

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Very Well-Done Overview Of The Echo Meter Touch

A great video Demo, done by NHBS -

 

The Brand-New EM Touch From Wildlife Acoustics - First Impressions

The long-awaited, brand-new Echo Meter Touch has just arrived from Wildlife Acoustics

What Wildlife Acoustics has basically done, is produced a small piece of hardware and an inexpensive package of software (Kaleidoscope) which essentially places the capability of a full ultrasound monitoring system into the hands of those who would otherwise be unable to afford it.

Another way to look at it, would be:
Wildlife Acoustics has taken the normally required equipment, used to record and ID bats - and shrunk it down; to something that may be kept in a large pocket. In the case of an iPhone, for example. 

As for me, I prefer to use The EM Touch on an iPad mini Retina. I believe that the (slightly) larger family of iPad products fuses best with The Echo Meter Touch; as opposed to an iPhone. I've had the opportunity to test the unit on an iPhone. I'd simply rather pair the device up to a larger, more robust device. Just a matter of personal preference.

This certainly marks a new beginning, in the field of bat detecting and recording.
Photos of this neat little device, will be posted very soon.

Review Of Echo Meter Touch From Wildlife Acoustics Part 1 Of 2

Happy bat detecting!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The BatLure From Apodemus Has Arrived! First Impressions Part 2

This is The BatLure (from Apodemus) - And this is Part 2 of my initial impressions (further un-packing). So far, while compiling Part 1 of this Post: I was even impressed by the cartons which the BatLure and the optional Powerkit were provided in.
The fact is, there are manufacturers who also provide their products in attractive packaging.
Just one example which immediately comes to mind, is The Griffon, from BatBox. And, of course, there are others. 

The BatLure
The diverse, complete contents of the Powerkit - Wow!
A view of the BatLure's special speaker, with protective cap removed
The BatLure's optional Powerkit, includes components and (high-quality) power leads. Any and every possible power option has been addressed. Any power source that a user may think of has been covered. I was especially fascinated with: The option to use an automobile battery, and the cabled Timer apparatus.
Indeed, there is also a high-quality Timer included (pictured to the right of the unit, in above photo). Power plug adapters are also included, so that the A/C  power adapter may be utilized in any part of the World. With this optional Powerkit, you will never run out of interesting methods for powering your BatLure. Of course, these options are all very relevant and practical to those Bat Workers and Researchers working in very remote locations.

Amoung other things, The BatLure is provided with a 4GB SD memory card (more details on it later). Since it comes pre-loaded with (excellent quality) calls from European bat species - I am in the process of preparing my own recorded bat calls; from North American species for transfer to the memory card. I hope to perform the first real test of The BatLure, early this evening.

We are indeed in the "busy season" for bat detecting. As many of the bats are slowly beginning to awaken from their hibernation, etc., several bat detectors (and related things) are becoming available. For example, as I type this - I await the delivery of another new bat detecting system. One that will revolutionize the way we detect and record bats. And, it will be here before nightfall today. I'll keep you guessing, just until then!

Happy bat detecting!

Monday, April 21, 2014

The BatLure From Apodemus Has Arrived! First Impressions Part 1

I am pleased to announce the arrival of The BatLure kit, for testing and review. The BatLure and a Powerkit were delivered to me (here in The U.S.) from Apodemus in The Netherlands.

It was well packed, and the actual product boxes are interesting as well. So, this Unpacking & First Impressions Post will be in 2 Parts.

Under the packing material, the attractive product box
(the Powerkit is on the upper right) 

The carton containing The BatLure features some charming images; as well as having the Contents of the box printed on it (just below the title). Excellent.

Inside the BatLure's box, the unit is packed within the included protective case:

The handsome, padded nylon bag offers adequate protection for this first-class device.

This initial un-boxing and First Impressions Post, will be directly followed by Part 2...

Part 2 Of BatLure First Impressions 
 
Review BatLure From Apodemus Part 1 Of 2 

Happy bat detecting calling!

Friday, April 18, 2014

First BIOS Update For SM3BAT! -And- The SM3 Configurator

From Wildlife Acoustics: The 1st Firmware Update for The SM3BAT! -And- The SM3 Configurator

Some time ago, I promised myself, that I would re-double my efforts to make my bat detector reviews shorter (in length of text, etc.). I also convinced myself, that I should do away with the 3-Part "essay type" reviews...
But, then a bat recorder like The SM3BAT comes along...And, here I am - Revisiting it, after the completion of a 2-Part Review.
What can I do? I really have no choice (the way I see it), I need to share as much information with you as I can.
In the case of certain bat recorders, I sometimes feel that I could easily write a book about them exclusively. It appears that such is the case with the SM3BAT... 

No, there won't be any 'Unofficial User Guide to The SM3' written...Not by me, in any case! As with any piece of electronic equipment, the owner will naturally become adept at utilizing all of it's features over time.
However, you can expect to see quite a few more Posts, with The Song Meter SM3BAT as the subject.

Another "News Flash" - The price of the new Song Meter 3 kit is not as high as some others have been advising... It is only $1598! (in U.S. Dollars, when ordered directly from Wildlife Acoustics). This includes The SM3BAT, one microphone, and cable. So, it is a competitively priced, World-class bit of kit, with excellent specifications.
Those  outside of The U.S., may compare prices from quite a few Authorized Resellers (depending on where you live). 
   
Wildlife Acoustics has just released a new firmware update for the SM3BAT. For owners of this platform, it may be downloaded Here.
Now, this (1st) firmware update hasn't been made conspicuous, it has not been announced all over the place, or even announced in their e-mail Newsletter - Presumably, because it is only of interest to owners of The Song Meter 3 platform; which, at this point in time, cannot actually be that many. However, I expect this to change soon!

I went ahead and updated the SM3BAT, with the new firmware (SYS1-0-7.SM3). I'm happy to report, that it was very easy. It's a matter of: Simply downloading/copying the (small) file to the root of an SD memory card...For the sake of convenience, I've pasted the complete Instructions from their Web site below:

"To upgrade the Song Meter SM3 firmware:
  • 1. Download the SYS1-0-7.SM3 firmware file.
  • 2. Copy this file to the top level directory of a flash memory card.
  • 3. Insert the flash memory card into Slot A of the SM3.
  • 4. Go to the "Utilities->Firmware Update" menu.
  • 5. A list of available .SM3 files will be displayed. Use the "Up" and "Down" buttons to scroll to the desired firmware file and press "Enter". You should see the following messages:
    Upgrading... Upgrading Complete! Rebooting...
  • 6. Repeat steps 3 through 5 for any other SM3s you wish to upgrade."
(As an added convenience, the link in Step 1 above, will allow you to download the firmware file directly)

As for observations of a post-updated SM3BAT: I don't have anything to report. I'm sure it was just a minor update. As of yet, Wildlife Acoustics have not provided a Changelog. My guess, is that the changes were too minor/brief to warrant the publishing of a Changelog, etc.
However, as always - I welcome all firmware updates with open arms: I enjoy seeing the developments, improvements, and even the "cosmetic" changes.

The SM3 Configurator

The SM3 Configurator is nicely covered (well-explained) beginning on page 33 of The SM3BAT User Guide. Chapter 5 includes a short introduction as well as the Link for downloading and installing the software. Also works on Apple Mac OSX computers.
It's a great little application, and is very useful. It basically gives you full, detailed control: Over all the functions, settings and options of the Song Meter SM3.
There is excellent advice on how to create your own (simple) Program, on Page 35. More advanced Custom Programs are covered beginning on Page 39. In short, there are plenty of customizations available even for the most discriminating of deployment plans.

Here is a typical screen capture:

The settings could use a bit of optimization in this example

Happy bat detecting!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Overview: New Batlogger M Firmware -And- New Version Of BatExplorer From Elekon

From Elekon: New firmware for Batlogger M -And- New version of BatExplorer software released

Elekon has recently made a new firmware build available, for owners of their Batlogger detector. 
They have also just released a new version (update - 1.10) of their free BatExplorer software.


Elekon AG has recently released a new firmware update, for the Batlogger and Batlogger M.

Yes, you could say, it's been quite some time since the last firmware update was made for The Batlogger. I agree; however, it was well-worth the wait!

What was it like? After installing the new firmware on The Batlogger M?
Well, on the heels of my recent SM3BAT Review... I feel another analogy coming on...

It was something like adding a new piece of "Live Rock" (or a piece of live Coral) to a saltwater Mini-Reef aquarium. Quite a stretch, I know, allow me to explain...

Without getting into too much detail - When a hobbyist adds a new fragment of "Live Rock" to their Mini-Reef aquarium, there is a pleasant anticipation involved. Because of the charming little life forms (which are mostly hidden, at the start) which slowly begin to reveal themselves.
As the days progress, all types of small creatures begin to make their presence known.
These tend to be beneficial (desirable) marine lifeforms. Tiny starfish, sponges, small anemones, colonies of coral, colorful bristle worms, mollusks, etc., etc. are discovered - Much to the delight of the hobbyist. 

Well, this is what it has been like; since I performed the firmware update on The Batlogger! Since I've been fairly occupied, experimenting and becoming acquainted with the new Song Meter 3 - I've only been "discovering" the neat new features, one bit at a time. And they have basically all been fun little surprises.
Does my analogy make any sense now?
In case it does not, I shall now commence with the "traditional" report and Review.

After upgrading the firmware, some changes which are apparent straight away are:
  • The battery status indicator is now represented by a small icon of a battery. In lieu of the 4 "bars" or blocks which used to appear in the upper-right-hand section of the display. This would fall under the category of "Cosmetics and other small bugfixes" as per Elekon's Changelog.

 The new battery status indicator, upper right-hand corner
  •  They have added a new (true) Manual Time Mode. Which allows you to set the unit's time independently - In other words, instead of having the GPS satellites provide it.  I must take the "blame" for this change.Thanks Elekon! I'm very happy to see it.
  •  The unit still looks the same, while it is being charged (while not in use); however when charging is complete: The display illuminates. And displays "Charging Complete". A neat feature, I think.

I'd like to add, that I preferred the original battery status indicator - It definitely gave the user a much better idea, of just how much battery power was remaining. Another Professional has advised that she feels the same way.
The thing about general descriptions such as "Cosmetics and other small bugfixes" is that they are a bit vague. And, many little changes (surprises) may be discovered by the user, as time goes on. During the regular use of The Batlogger.
For instance, another example might be - Having a new ASCII-type "Bat" that flies by, underneath the text being displayed. Sort of like: ^o^ Pictured below is my best attempt at photographing said "bat".

New "ASCII" bat flies by...

 Then, there were the far less conspicuous changes:
  • You now need to drill down to your desired Folder, in order to locate (and playback) one of your specific recordings. Although it's been done in the name of structure and organization - This may become fairly annoying in a short time, while in the field. 
  • Elekon has added a Sunset/Sunrise Time Mode for delayed recording. This change now places The Batlogger on par with many other unattended bat recording solutions.
Upon having a quick look at just the few items listed above, you may think to yourself: "Well, that's really not a lot of changes". Please bear in mind, what I've listed above are only some minor changes.

Users of The Batlogger, may rest assured in the knowledge that the majority of changes serve as excellent improvements of the unit. Again, what we need to look at, is the online firmware Changelog
The bottom line, is - That after identifying and observing the changes, I have nothing negative to report.
The latest version of the (free) BatExplorer software, is now: 1.10 AKA 01.04.2014
Elekon's BatExplorer software is simply wonderful. When was the last time you used bat call analysis software which behaved this well?    ...Give up?

The answer is: Kaleidoscope from Wildlife Acoustics!

Aside from the fact that it currently only covers non-U.S. bat species, I have 0 / zero complaints to report in regards to the BatExplorer software.
So, Elekon took this software and improved it...

It still has the same overall appearance (which I've always been very fond of). I've always loved the colours also.
However, there have been quite a few changes and improvements made to the application.
Those of you who use BatExplorer regularly, may have learned of the new version, via the News Update dialog boxes which appear when you first launch the App. Updating to the latest version can be done directly from the application itself. Simply by clicking on the link provided.
I performed at least one of the updates, using this method - And it all went very smoothly.
BatExplorer eventually informs you, that it will shut-down the running instance of itself, etc.

I don't want to make this a boring or mundane Post; re-hashing everything that you'll be able to see yourself, after updating. In addition, it would take several pages of text...But, I would like to point out the most interesting and/or intriguing changes that I noticed.
Once again, I'll direct you to one of Elekon's links. The BatExplorer Changelog Page (the preceding link, will take you to the BatExplorer software Changelog).

  • I like the way this new version apparently analyzes bat recordings more aggressively than the previous version. You may test this yourself. Upon loading recordings from previous Projects - The software prompts you, with the option of re-analyzing the recording(s). When you do so: You will see an impressive difference between the old spectrogram and the new.
  • I like the Heat Map (it's not what you may imagine, click Here for a definition)
  • I like the new Call shapes feature (cf-e,cf-n,fm-l,fm-d,fm-a)
  • I also like the ability "to open time expanded (custom) wav files" 

Next-up: I'll be tackling the 1st firmware update released for the brand-new SM3BAT from Wildlife Acoustics...Followed by The BatLure...As well as lots of other new stuff!

Happy bat detecting!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Review: The New SM3BAT From Wildlife Acoustics Part 2 Of 2

Review of the New SM3BAT from Wildlife Acoustics Part 2 Of 2

A weather buoy, miles away from the coast.

It's what I think of, when I think of unattended monitoring solutions. 
In other words - Passive acoustic monitoring systems, such as the SM3BAT, for example. 
When I think of it...I'm reminded of a modern-day weather buoy - Out at sea, diligently recording and reporting the current weather conditions back to it's home base. Able to stave off everything Nature has to throw at it; night after night.

The SM3 Platform - (more specifically the SM3BAT) - An ultrasonic detector, designed and manufactured to perform it's task(s) in any kind of weather. It prompts me of a weather buoy. And, if one were to evaluate such a device - I presume, that many of the same fundamental questions would apply:
A. Does the unit perform it's tasks admirably?
B. Can it do so under duress of inclement weather?
C. What kind of instruments of measurement is it equipped with? And, are they able to withstand adverse weather conditions?
And, finally: How well does the machine perform, overall? Or, in other words - While it is out there, all alone...defiant of all manner of nasty weather...Is it producing accurate results?
Results that are well-organized? Is the resulting data practical, as well as relevant, to the organization that has deployed it?  

In the case of the new SM3BAT, and the SM3 platform in general, the answer is Yes. 
Throughout my extensive testing, in more than one location, I have found this to indeed be the case.

I'm making my best effort, not to re-iterate any of the information which a reader may easily view at The SM3's Introduction Page.

Not only would an individual be able to conveniently deploy an SM3BAT in the field - But, they can fully expect to acquire accurate data, which they can use. With it's 4 SD card slots, The new Song Meter platform is able to collect a huge number of bat calls. This is where the famous speed of The Kaleidoscope software application will prove to be very convenient!
Wildlife Acoustics' Kaleidoscope software also comes in handy, when it comes time to handle a substantial amount of noise (if recording in noisy environments):

As seen in this screenshot - You may choose not to deal with noise at all: Simply un-check (remove the tick) from 'Keep noise files'

As you might expect, The SM3 Platform seems to behave best, when used with Kaleidoscope software. There are advantages in this arrangement, of course. However, I did attempt a short investigation, as to how SM3BAT recordings behaved in other sound applications. And, I have nothing out of the ordinary to report. I simply prefer to use Kaleidoscope software more than the others. I should also inform you, that I have quite a few at my disposal.
The simple fact is - Wildlife Acoustics' Kaleidoscope Pro is #1 on my list (you may click Here for current prices and ordering). 
I've found the system adept at recording bats, and other ultrasonic sounds; while dutifully rejecting, or discarding unwanted sounds (those which are non-biological in origin).
I've found that normal man-made sounds are very frequently rejected; and not recorded by the SM3BAT. When using the settings as per the screenshot above. This is a big plus, as there are recorders in existence which do not differentiate ordinary sounds from ultrasounds.

I'm happy to report, that the SM3BAT doesn't sacrifice sensitivity while achieving it's selectivity. During my tests, it has shown itself to be almost as sensitive as the venerable Batlogger M from Elekon. And that is saying a lot.
I've come to trust The SM3BAT - When I set it up: For a night, several days, or a week's worth of recording - I can trust it, to not miss a bat. I've become very confident in the abilities of this brand-new machine.

The Activity LED may flash green - But, the Song Meter determines whether the sound event should be recorded as noise, etc., or if it was an actual bat call - And be classified as such.  
When checking the recordings/contents of the SD memory card(s): You will find bat calls and other ultrasonic sounds
Using Kaleidoscope software, you may choose to have noise files neatly isolated in their own Folder; if you wish. By ticking 'Keep noise files', of course. You may then view them at your leisure.

Overall: I discovered the SM3BAT to be as sensitive as many top-of-the-range bat detectors I've reviewed. I found it to have very good rejection of normal, undesirable noise. However, while using the factory settings, the SM3BAT is not completely immune to the odd man-made ultrasonic sound every now-and-then. Those with experience, are familiar with what is meant here, so I'll just leave it at that. I will add that (thankfully), airliners and other low-flying aircraft are not picked-up. Luckily, in most woodland areas, this is not a concern.

One must keep in mind, that the SM3BAT is very flexible in it's customizations and settings. I've only scratched the surface of what may be accomplished; by performing most of my tests using the default/factory settings. I expect to perform quite a few more experiments, in regards to microphone/recorder Settings. So, it's very likely that a future blog Post will include my findings.

The SM3BAT system is very versatile. One may become familiar with it's abilities, and adaptability by downloading/reading the User Guide. Some individual Sections which I found particularly interesting include:

Page 27 (Chapter 4) Programs on the SM3BAT
Page 33 (Ch. 5) Using the SM3 Configurator

Slightly more advanced topics may be found in the following Sections:

Page 39 (Chapter 6) Developing Custom Programs
Page 62 (Chapter 9.3) How to measure Microphone Sensitivity

The SM3BAT can be quickly deployed: From opening the box, to set-up at a field location very easily; thanks to pre-programed/default settings set at the factory. I presume that many organizations (performing bat surveys) would find these settings suitable/appropriate. 
And, this would save a lot of time in deployment, for medium to large sized organizations.

I duplicated this very scenario, from the beginning, when I first started my testing. I tested the Song Meter 3 for a considerable amount of time using these factory settings. I found the default settings to be just fine - for my elementary needs. Which (at the time) could've been summed-up as: I wanted to record bats! Only bats! And as many of them as possible!

The front-mounted Check Status button allows you to see the current state of the SM3BAT including: 

* Total battery voltage remaining
* Available memory space remaining on SD cards
* Microphones installed/present, plus the current decibel levels detected
* Internal temperature 

Categories of data shown upon pressing the Check Status button once


Categories of data shown upon pressing the Check Status button twice (quickly)


Pros:
  • Quite literally, "Built like a tank" - Enclosure is Die-cast-Aluminum...
  • Excellent resistance to unwanted sounds (man-made noise, etc.) 
  • Ability to specifically record sounds of several non-bat species: Birds, frogs or insects (with the addition of optional microphones)
Cons:
  • Does not feature an external thermometer. Although, it does have an internal one - Measuring (and recording) the temperature inside the unit. Mainly for diagnostic purposes.
  • Inability to see how many individual calls (events) have been recorded, just by looking at the screen. However, this ability is not needed on a machine intended to be set-up, and left at a remote location.  
I really like the SM3-U1 microphone; I like the fact that it features a built-in, 4-pole 8kHz high pass filter. Electronics enthusiasts and Sound recording aficionados can appreciate this. 
I like the fact that the enclosure features a (weatherproof) vent, to equalize pressure and prevent condensation from forming inside.
Last, but not least - Here is a spectrogram, of Lasiurus cinereus (Hoary Bat) recorded with The SM3BAT (using all Default Settings). And displayed in Kaleidoscope:
 
 Happy bat detecting!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The BatLure And Other Soon-To-Be-Posted Reviews

I'm excited to share, some of the reviews which will be coming-up very soon! Each of these topics are relevant right now - And, I want to inform everyone of them ASAP!

Listed in the order in which I plan for them to be posted:

The BatLure from Apodemus
Here is something else, I've just learned of - Which is very interesting: 
Another Stereo Bat Recorder is in progress. Check-out this Web Page for some more information.

Happy bat detecting!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

New EM Touch From Wildlife Acoustics Is Now Shipping! I'm Excited!

In case you're not subscribed to the e-mail Newsletter from Wildlife Acoustics...I've pasted it below:
Echo Meter Touch is shipping!
Several weeks have passed since we began taking pre-orders for the Echo Meter Touch bat detector/recorder/analyzer. Today we're excited to announce that Echo Meter Touch Ultrasonic Module is shipping. If you've placed a pre-order, your Module will ship this week. If you decided to wait, you can purchase one now at wildlifeacoustics.com.
Start using the Echo Meter Touch App right now.
The Echo Meter Touch The Echo Meter TouchThe Echo Meter Touch App is now available from the Apple App Store. Download it via iTunes or directly to your compatible iPhone or iPad. The basic app is free and it includes 2 sample recordings. You can also extend the software's capability via In-App Purchases. Currently we offer Bat Auto-ID and Wi-Fi File Export features via In-App Purchases.
Echo Meter Touch works with iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5, iPad Air, iPad mini with Retina display, and iPad (4th generation).
If you're not familiar with Echo Meter Touch visit our website or watch the Echo Meter Touch introduction video.
We hope that Echo Meter Touch will become a valuable tool for your bat research and analysis. We're looking forward to hearing your feedback.
Gratefully yours,
Ian Agranat
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Happy bat detecting!