Thursday, December 27, 2012

Nikon D800 vs D600?

Off and on, I think about jumping ship to Nikon.

Recently, stores have been offering the D600 with 24-85mm lens at around $2000, cheaper than the retail price of the body alone.  It's a good deal if you need a slightly wide to slightly telephoto lens and you're in that hobbyist category they're targeting with the D600.

For me, it would be a way to get my feet wet but I can't imagine what kind of photography I would do with such a combination, since it's rare for me to just photograph, ummm, things.

I was thinking about the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens for sports but in FX/135 format frame mode, it doesn't have much reach.  It's fine for the swim meets I'm currently shooting and it would be fair for basketball, although the lack of sharpness at f/2.8 bothers me.  If you're working in low light anyway, trying to avoid flash, wouldn't you want your photos sharp?  Shouldn't you get a sharp f/2.8 for $2500?

I saw that Adorama had the D800 in a refurbished state for roughly $2300 with a 90 day warranty.  That's about $700 off but you should buy an extended warranty to avoid problems since Nikon don't have 1 year of confidence for you.  (What's with the U.S.A. only warranty anyway?  If I travel and have a problem, I'm out of luck?)

The D800 is solidly above the D600 in a similar way that the D300s has been above the D7000.  It's a weighty decision, literally.  The extra functionality comes with a great deal of extra weight and size.  The D800 is no F2 but it's bigger than the D600.  I'm all for smaller gear, and many professionals have been working with mirror-less cameras lately.

Also, one of the review highlights I've noticed is about the D600's suitability for sports.  DPReview mentioned that the auto focus wasn't really good for sports.  I don't really depend on AF much and when I do, it's a single focus point.  I really don't care whether I have 51 auto focus points if they only work under certain conditions with certain equipment.  I'll get AF lock on my target and move back to my intended composition.  (No, I don't just point at something and hold the shutter release and hope that I get a good photo.)

Picking up a refurbished D800 for $2300 + 3 year warranty for another $300 + a 70-200mm f/2.8 for $2500 + tax seems absurd at this point, unless I'm charging too much for photos.  "Excuse me, I'm selling these 4x6 shots for $25.00 each.  How many would you like?"  "Well, no, I'm not retiring to an island in the south Pacific.  I'm just paying for my equipment to photograph your son."

Hey, maybe I could find a refurbished 70-200mm!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Level 3 snow emergency?

What an interesting day it's been!

About 27 hours ago, I got an alert about a blizzard warning.  Blizzard?  I've seen too many but we barely had snow in 2012 at all.  Then, a second alert.  As I travelled home along wet roads, I saw nothing to indicate a major storm.

In early afternoon today, the snow was fast and furious.  There are probably 7 inches of snow outside my house.  It seemed a lot as I shovelled the walk but it's always the most difficult during the first snow.  The worst, recent snow I remember was February of 2010 when we got 18 inches of snow and ice within a couple of days.  One snow shovel isn't enough to remove that much snow within a short time.  Add to that the worsening cold and difficulty breathing, and the snow can wait, especially during a level 3 snow emergency.

The last time I remember a level 3 snow emergency, I was in Philadelphia, PA during January 1996, and a friend was visiting from Maine.  It started snowing slowly on Saturday night, and I couldn't get to work until Wednesday.  They didn't even have the road to the apartment complex cleared until Tuesday morning and a number of trucks weren't trying to clear the drives and parking lots the rest of the day into the night.  Philadelphia hadn't a lot of snow for years, so they didn't have snow removal equipment, so they hired everyone with a snow plough attached to the front of their truck.  Someone on the local news in Ohio said that people were comparing this event to the blizzard of January 1978, when I got my frostbite.  I assure you it wasn't even close.  The county here supposedly lost one of their trucks and didn't find it until the snow melted.  That was a hideous month.

Looking at today, this town is well-equipped and they tend the richer areas of town much better than the rest.  Thankfully, the hills are fewer than just a bit south.  I bought snow tires this year, considering that the snow would be much greater than years past but hoping that I would be incorrect.  (Update: I was shovelling the snow from my car--it was that deep on the car.  My driveway is half clear and there is actually some sunshine, a pleasant change.  I haven't gone anywhere yet, but I can if I need to do that.  Since my street is covered with snow, we don't have to worry a lot about ice, which is a typical winter problem here.)

The retailers certainly missed out on shoppers, although I suppose they'll somehow get to stores on Friday and Saturday.  The news mentioned that sales were only up 0.9 % over the previous holiday season, but any increase is good, considering how many people are out of work.

I miss the weather of Florida but even there it's not exactly warm at lower than average high temperatures.

Update: in two snowfalls, we got nearly half of what we got the rest of 2012.  Maybe, we won't have a drought for summer.  More snow is on the way for New Year's Eve.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The end is near...oh emm gee!

I joke frequently about the end of the world being the fault of the Spanish, whose troops killed the Mayan calendar maker so no more calendars were made.

It's not so different than my joke about 666 being upside down and the correct number was 999, and as FORTRAN programmers will recall, "GOTO 999" was often paired with "999: END" in that language's programmes to cease programme execution.  Truly the end.

If anything truly happens, I'll be surprised and delighted.  For once, someone will be correct about the end of the world.  However, it will likely just include the human infestation (Star Trek: The Motion Picture), and the cockroaches will continue.

People might arrive on the planet millennia later and think that we obliterated ourselves with our stupidity.  How could a people be able to put a computing device in their pocket and couldn't stop ridiculous violence?

The whole world has felt the sting of murders, such as those in Newtown, Connecticut and Toronto, Ontario recently.  Canada is much less in love with guns than the U.S.A., yet a similar incident happened.  How do military weapons end up outside the military?

Oh, and there is another end: the fiscal cliff.  This Congress has been in session for 2 years and didn't accomplish anything that I can recall.  I can't recall a Congress so useless, even when Pres. Nixon and Carter were in office.  This Congress spent all their time trying to undo the previous 2 years and achieved nothing of their own.  Now, they're blaming everything on the president, who as they might recall, has no ability to make laws.  They are the anchor to this sinking ship.

We've had some tremendous weather today.  I'm not talking about sunshine and moderate temperatures.  We've had high winds, rain, and overnight, it'll all turn to snow and ice, as the temperatures drop steadily.  I just had someone at the door to tell me how some company from New York got the state of Indiana to invest in a natural gas facility.  It's awful outside and they couldn't organize months ago?  Besides, they should know by now that the holiday season has left a lot of empty pockets by now.

Well, if the end is near, it'll be a welcome change.  Life is too stressful at this point, and only a major catastrophe could change that.  You never know.  Maybe, aliens (from space) will come and take us all away to be enslaved on another planet to serve milk and cookies to Santa Claus.

Hmm...I think we missed out.  Durn.  I'm still here.  You're still here.  We had Christmas Day and plenty of people will have to pay their credit card bills for those once-in-a-lifetime items they bought just because the world was ending.  Oops.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Poor, poor Kmart

Don't you feel sorry for that other brand?  It's that brand that never gets any respect, no matter what.

Kmart bought Sears, didn't it, not the other way?  It's amazing to me that so much has happened and Kmart is still a mess but now, Sears is more of a mess than it was.

Last year, I got a deal on an LG television.  It was a 3D, LED-backlit model with the 3D-capable Blu-Ray player and it had a good price.  Even their two year service agreement was priced well, and seemed to be useful.  I wasn't buying a $2000 tv, so I didn't have such expectations.  It didn't really overwhelm or disappoint me.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the Kmart store in Oviedo/Winter Springs, FL where I shopped when I lived in the area for 10 years.  It's likely the best Kmart store anywhere in the country.  It's clean, well-organized, and the problems are few.  The employees don't gripe constantly, and they handle exceptions exceptionally well.

Returning to the store in Richmond, IN  couldn't be a shock but it's still shocking to see how rough the store is.  Practically everything is a problem.  e.g., my mum tried to buy a Sprint phone card, and it took 3 people and they couldn't figure out how to make it work.  I bought some Arizona Iced Tea a few months ago, and one of the bottles had liquor in it.  (I should have been happy for free liquor but I just wanted iced tea.)  What was more surprising was the "oh, that happens sometimes." reply on the phone.  Why does it happen any time?

More recently (before a lot of Christmas shopping would occur) I went to the web site to buy some Joe Boxer stuff since they have a poor selection in the store.  (I remember shopping for Joe Boxer in Strawbridge & Clothier in the Philadelphia, PA area.  It was a much different brand then, but then, so is any brand Kmart touches, yes? )  In any case, I selected several items and one could not be bought, as it had sold out while I was shopping online.  I picked something else and placed my order.  I got a notice the next day that an item was being shipped from a store.  (What, they don't have these items in the warehouse?)  I got that item quite quickly from a store in Charleston, WV.  The other items took several days but shipped from the Chicago area.  I guess there isn't anything in Michigan any longer but they moved to the Sears headquarters for everything.

Does anyone believe they'll be in business in 2020?  I doubt it, unless they're servicing one Kmart at Red Bug Lake and Tuskawilla Roads in the Winter Springs/Oviedo, FL area.

Update: the Sears in Richmond, IN is closing but not the Kmart.  That's interesting.  They both have everyday pricing above other stores' pricing.  The good thing for the Kmart store is that there isn't much on that side of town.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A new computer

Okay, so it's kewl to hate Apple.  I'm not an Apple fanatic anyway.  The fanatics drive me crazy.  I like the company's products, but don't own a huge number of them.

I've had Apple computers since 1993 when my IBM L40SX' mouse port died and they'd have to replace the motherboard to fix the problem.  The company gave me almost $1000 for a two year old computer that originally cost me $1500, and sent me on my way.

I took a friend and went to the local OfficeMax.  They had an Apple Performa 426 (LC/Performa 425 with a 250 MB hard drive).  Yes, Performa was the budget line and for around $1500, you got a keyboard without the keypad, a mouse, and a 14 inch 640x480 monitor.  It was a good deal, especially when the Quadra version of the same machine was more expensive (having the 68040 with inbuilt math coprocessor, instead lf the 68LC040) but lacked the keyboard and monitor.  I'm thinking that the keyboard and mouse were included in the LC425 version.

19 years ago, the company was okay, but their operating system was craptacular in fundamental ways, i.e., it needed to be scrapped.  Today, they have a good operating system that has some weird issues and they're trying to make it more mobile--like handheld devices mobile.  Is something with a 15.4 inch display a mobile device, really?

At this moment, I'm transferring my data from a backup of my current mid-2009 white MacBook to a mid-2012 aluminium MacBook Pro.  I'm thinking that I should have bought a USB 3.0 drive instead of saving a bit of money on the clearance item, as USB 2.0 isn't so fast.  The previous time I did a migration, it was over a Gigabit Ethernet connection from my late 2004 PowerBook G4 to the white MacBook.  I regretted not having a machine with discrete graphics but the nVidia 9400M graphics hardware was fast and with almost 5 years of technology between the two machines, the games I had ran very well on the MacBook.

This new machine has current graphics hardware: nVidia 650M with 1 GB of GDDR5 RAM.  That's fairly extreme for a notebook computer.  These days, desktop graphics hardware requires significant power, so it's nice to see that they can give good abilities to a mobile computer that doesn't require a long extension cord to do anything.  For daily uses, it's got the Intel HD 4000 graphics chipset, which is, ummm, less underwhelming than the HD 3000 chipset.  That's as generous as I can be.  I expect that Fishlabs' Galaxy on Fire 2 HD will run fine at 1440x900, rather than the 1024x600 window it uses on the MacBook.  However, I suspect UT2004 won't run at all, due to deprecated (retired) software in Lion/Mountain Lion.

Yesterday, I took the old PowerBook to have the backlight repaired.  The machine is a pleasant design and doesn't give any feeling of being cheap but it's not a unibody design.  Neither is the MacBook I have a unibody design, though it doesn't feel expensive or cheap.  Certainly, remembering the late iBook family sitting in a store with half its keys missing is enough to make you think that any of the MacBook family are not cheap.  However, this certain MacBook Pro is the aluminium slab unibody machine, and it felt very impressive pulling it out of the box.  It should be interesting to compare the two side-by-side.  Notably though, the 1440x900 vs 1280x854 display resolution and graphics hardware are the biggest details.  Considering that the 1280x854 15.2 inch widescreen display arrived in 2001 when most of the world offered a 1024x768 4:3 display is still amazing.  Of course, you pay extra for the better, higher resolution display and back then, Apple didn't have the sales numbers to push down the cost of the display with economies of scale.

I'm interested in how I'll function with Lion or Mountain Lion.  I didn't get far enough to find out which it has, but the entry on the Apple store said that it qualified for the up-to-date program.  I'm all for massive security improvements, as Apple has lagged the industry, even when the security improvements were free and available to them.  I can't understand the need to suck people into their world without protecting them.

The operating system(s) is much different than Snow Leopard from what I've seen.  A lot of it seems to be superficial eye candy, which doesn't do a thing for me, if the system is still broken when you use it.  e.g., I have a problem when I'm not a System Administrator in Snow Leopard.  I'll go from my default of the Applications folder to one of my photo folders, the Utilities folder, or some such.  The Back button should be enabled and light up with a visual cue to let you know that you can click it to return to the previous folder.  Nine of ten times, it does not, and clicking the button does zero.  I'm sure it's someone else's fault because Apple never makes mistakes.  Did your sarcasm detector just jump to 100 %?

I have about 2 hours, 21 minutes at latest count until the Migration Assistant finishes.  The good thing is that this machine is not tied down since it's all being pulled from the Time Machine backup.  It's odd watching the latest thermometer/progress bar work.  It has sharp edges--no rounded rectangle there, but it still has the fluid effects and the ever-present blue.

Hopefully, it will handle my Phase One Capture One 7 Pro software well.  If not, after the 16 GB RAM switch, it'll be even better.  I'm being hampered by only 6 GB of RAM, and the system is often at a crawl.  Isn't that crazy that so much RAM isn't enough?  I'll find out in a couple of hours.  Hopefully, it'll be a wonderful experience.  I mean, it's Apple, yes?  Nothing could ever be wrong.  Yes, yes, there goes your sarcasm detector again.

It took about 3 hours for the Migration Assistant to finish.  That's not terrible, but it missed a few settings or, I guess, they didn't apply correctly for Mac OS X 10.8.  Just after that, I went to the shop where they're going to repair my PowerBook and used their internet connection to download 1.32 GB of updates to the operating system and other Apple-related software.  When it wanted to restart, I clicked Restart (as opposed to Not Now) but it didn't seem to work.  It was only much later, when I went back to the merged Software Update/Mac App Store that it updated correctly.  It's confusing.  As of midnight, the machine seems to be working reasonably well.  I can't keep a Finder window but other things seem to be working, including my Capture One 7 Pro.  That's a good thing.

Continuing, all of my updates have been processed, and I replaced the 8 GB of RAM with 16 GB.  The combined Mac App Store/Software Update found a tiny update for MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.  It's been out a couple of weeks, so I'm surprised that it wasn't found already.

Of course, the 16 GB of RAM makes the re-launch of almost any application instantaneous.   However, Capture One 7 Pro still lags when loading more than 1200 photos (and their associated change information) in one folder.  The 5400 rpm drive has a lot to do with that, but of course, 1200+ photos are quite a lot.  I started out with over 2100.  The drive really does feel abnormally slow when I've been using a 7200 rpm drive for about 1 year but limited there to 6 GB of RAM. 

In the standard user account where I have my photography, it mostly remembers my Finder window.  In my administrator account, it almost never does.  Of course, this is 10.8.2 and I'm not comfortable until any release gets to 10.x.4.  Apple just don't figure out things correctly until around that time.  I'm concerned about sync-ing my iPhone with iTunes 11.  I can appreciate the enhanced user experience, but iTunes is generally flaky until the second patch, but they've been stopping at the first and releasing something new after that.  I don't want the data on my phone scrambled.

I'm not saying that anything is unusable.  It's just not as good as it should be, and things are moved around, probably for the sake of moving things, like with Software Update.  Be sure to click on "more" at the end of the description, so you can see the whole list of updates and choose which you would like.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The angry pixel bus: digital photo noise

Today, I was in a camera store looking at some products and someone brought up the number of pixels between the Nikon D800 and the D4.  The D4 and its predecessors have concentrated on speed and image quality, while the D800/D800E and its predecessor concentrated on pixels.

This person mentioned something about most people not being able to understand about why pushing too many pixels onto a sensor didn't make sense.  I explained it to them, as I've been doing since 2004:  When you crowd more people onto a bus, you end up with a bunch of angry riders, and they become noisy.  Putting the same number of riders onto a smaller bus does not make for happier people, and you should see even more noise, all things being equal.  They asked to borrow that.

These days, we have buses with better seating capacity and more athletic riders, so we can have more pixels from that same sensor size with reduced noise.

Now, I hope people will remember that it was my analogy and not everyone else's.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Volkswagen service

I'm on my fourth VW, a 1999 Golf GLS with just over 140,000 miles.  It's been through the wringer, so to speak.  I spent over 30 visits because the power window regulator clips failed and the window would not close.  I have a new hatch in the back because of someone's carelessness when she ran into my car at a stop light.  Inside, things just fell apart.  Recently, the sunroof drains clogged and water was exiting through the door trim.  The center armrest door fell apart.  It continues.

On the 12th of November, I had the car serviced.  I was late for a major service, which was at 120,000 miles.  Many things needed to be handled.  When I made the appointment, I had requested that the forward side marker light be repaired, as it had been hanging.  King's VW of Loveland, Ohio missed the hanging light in their several walk-around inspections, but they noticed the missing radio antenna--a huge safety risk.

When the survey arrived and I completed it, the manager replied at how that side marker light had been repaired--as if they'd done exactly as they should have.  If they had, it would have been repaired on my initial visit, instead of focusing on the missing radio antenna.  I actually travel past another VW dealer to go there because the closer one is not as highly rated.  If haphazard care is what you get, why not go to the closer one, unless they really don't care about anything?

On the 17th of November, I was with friends in the Orlando, Florida area.  As I was leaving their house, the low beam headlight on the driver's side was out.  One of those had died about the same time four years earlier.  Unfortunately, there is one that is easy to replace and the other requires removing things to get to it.  (Volkswagen must think like GM or Ford.)

I really didn't want to mess too much, and I went to an Advance Auto Parts, thinking that their people might know immediately or be able to help me.  "We don't do that!" I was told in a most rude tone.  They replace wiper blades and batteries but not headlight bulbs.  Okay, fine, but rudeness, really?

I went down the road to David Maus VW.  They were new in 2008 when I was leaving the area.  I had been dealing with Aristocrat VW from buying the car through service for it.  At one point, they replaced their entire service department and they were no longer trustworthy.  However, David Maus dealerships were an unknown.  He was on tv telling people "whatever it takes" and I thought that he was just another one who couldn't be trusted.

So, I walked into the service department a few minutes early on Sunday morning.  The service advisor was quite pleasant, and patient as I explained things.  He quoted $59.95 for the bulb and labor.  If it was on the easy side, that was overpriced.  I also mentioned that my radio antenna was falling apart and I needed a replacement.  He would ask parts about that.

Quite a while later, he told me that they were close to finishing and the radio antenna would be $79.95 (I expected $39.99 - $49.99)  and they didn't have it in stock.  He suggested eBay.  That sounded better.  I had bought a universal kit for $9.99 and I couldn't fit the pieces together.  I am able to do IKEA or other do-it-yourself furniture but I'm not mechanically-inclined.

On checkout, he said that he went "to the back" and found "old antennas" and replaced mine for free.  I'm sure I thanked him, but my cynicism kicked in and I thought that it was some sort of gimmick to get my trust.  It was certainly better than Jimmy Bryan Mazda breaking something on my car so I'd have to return.

In the end, it worked out quite nicely because the radio antenna balanced the bulb being on the easy side.  If it wasn't, then, I really do owe the dealership some loyalty but they'd have that already for not being rude, and doing a good job.

Strangely, I got a call the next morning from a salesperson.  I say strangely because I was about 1000 miles from home.  Do people keep their car titles with them?  If I was buying a car locally, it would make sense.  I would go home, retrieve it and make progress in the sale.  I suppose I could just abandon my car 1000 miles from home, or give it to strangers.  In any case, I thought that it was amusing that they would attempt a sale from someone visiting the state.

Thinking back to my first two VWs, I used to get a lot of smart ass remarks from the dealerships.  Al Holbert, who raced Audi cars, had a Porsche/Audi/VW dealership in Warrington, PA.  I took my 1986 VW GTI there at around 30,000 miles for brake work.  It needed the two front brake rotors replaced.  I asked politely "What makes that happen?" and the service advisor answered "your foot".  He had a long day?  I had a long day!  If VW was doing surveys at that point, he'd get the opposite of a "Truly Exceptional".  I'd never had a car that needed rotors replaced at 30,000 miles.  That was exceptional.

You'd think if you were paying exceptionally high prices for service--the rates were often the same no matter the manufacturer--that you'd be getting people working between you and the mechanics who knew how to not infuritate customers.  Sure, Porsche hourly rates were nothing compared to Rolls-Royce but my car was about 25 % the price of the nearest Porsche model.

I'm guessing I'll be at a Subaru or Mazda dealer once I decide where I'm going to live next.  I can't just buy a car any longer.  There are no 50 state cars now, unless diesel cars fit that.

Update 2013.01.27: So, I just had the strangest experience this week.  The car was overheating in 17 degrees Fahrenheit weather.  I drove the car too far trying to get it home.  I was going to put water in it, but the water bottles I kept in the car were frozen solid.  The next morning, I had the car towed to Expert Tire, since 60 miles to a VW dealership was inconvenient.  They pulled things apart and found a distribution point that had cracked.  Why it was plastic is beyond me.  Given the state of extremes in weather and coolant temperatures, I thought the parts would be made of metal. They received a replacement part, which wasn't correct, and later that day received the correct part since they could send it back and match it.  The pressure test revealed no other issues.  I had the oil changed due to the extraordinary heat--all those adverts about engine heat breaking down oil got to me.

I ended up with a rental car from Hertz--not recommended too much--and have definitely decided against a Toyota Corolla.  My arms aren't long but the door was designed for someone with excessively short arms, as the controls and door handle were several inches back of what seemed natural.  What's more, I'm half-Japanese, so the car should fit me fairly well.

I've been considering a new car more and more, especially since my mum's house sold and I have the cash.  A reasonably local, highly-rated Subaru dealer has some Impreza Sport models at a reasonable price.  I also found a couple of 2012 VW Golf TDI leftovers at the dealership that does my service.  The discounts put them at almost acceptable prices.  They're all over $20,000--a line I'd never crossed in the past.  I also wanted to look at Mazda 3, but given the dealerships wanting to charge extra or play games, I'm not likely to bother.  Plus, I want a car I can keep in California and the diesels are ULEV II-compliant, and that's huge.  Will they last 14 years as my current Golf is approaching that age?  Will they be as shabby?  I'm concerned.  The Subaru Impreza is a more reliable choice, but will it have an emotional resonance?

Update 2013.07.17: I bought the VW Golf TDI and I've even been through the 10,000 mile service.  Since there wasn't anything really wrong with the car, it went smoothly and it was inexpensive for them and at no cost to me.  There is another service at 20,000 miles and I'm only about 4000 miles from that now.  I might have to have that done while I'm on a trip somewhere else.

Update 2014.11.14: I'm over 40,000 miles now, and it's been relatively fine, except for a botched 20,000 mile service (pinched the fuel filter--didn't reimburse me for the fuel) when I was on the road back in August 2013.

Now that I'm living in Northern California, I'm happy to have found a great service department within 15 miles or so.  There are three VW dealers within that distance, but only one is great.  They mentioned that they have customers from the San Francisco Bay Area.  That seems impressive.  You would think that they'd have great dealerships in a large metropolitan area but this one is in a small city of 200,000 people.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Waze is cutesy mapping and navigation

Crowdsourcing is something fairly new.  It requires everyday people to help supply information.  Waze, the maps and navigation utility app, uses crowdsourcing to get the job done.

Since I've been on a trip from Eastern Indiana to the Orlando, Florida area, I thought I'd try the app on iOS.  A lot of people raved about it before Apple brought their new maps to iOS, and since then, the suggestions have become a call to arms, virtually.

So, here I was on a trip I estimated at about 1000 miles one way.  I've driven it probably 12 times and lived in the Orlando area for 11 years, so there was hardly a chance of being truly lost, and that's a good time to try something new.

I was somewhat amused by the marshmallow like character with the teething device to show a newbie.  There are many different levels of users.

As I drove from my town to Hamilton, OH a couple of times, and then, to Cincinnati, it was somewhat helpful.  Of course, the maps will allow you to see the roads ahead, so you can make wiser decisions about lane changes before you try to cross 3 lanes full of traffic to make your turn on time.

I noticed a couple of problems:
  • At an intersection, it will sometime ask you if you're in traffic, when you're stopped at a red light "We detected a slowdown.  Are you in traffic?"  They need a red light button to tap.
  • It often changes the orientation 90 degrees and then, to 180 degrees from your actual orientation, showing you headed from whence you came.  Of course, it flips you back when you start to move.  It's rather dis-orienting.

Driving from Cincinnati, OH on the trip to Chattanooga, TN, I didn't notice much of a problem.  You can warn of objects on the road, on the side of the road, and also warn of police.  Considering shredded tires and cars slightly off to the side, this can be advantageous, especially in pouring rain and darkness.  I've noticed that the police are sometime not where it says that they are, so maybe the police are using the app too?

Most of my experience from Chattanooga to Orlando, FL was similar until I left I-75.  I had not lived in the area for four years, and I wasn't sure that the tolls hadn't increased a great deal.  Remembering that they didn't take bills over $20, I decided to go toll free, even at a longer ride.

When I tried the navigation, just outside Orlando near Ocoee, it gave me two options: use Florida's Turnpike or use Florida's Turnpike.  I didn't investigate further for the same reason.  It never gave me an option to take a local road, and I couldn't just tap "No tolls" or "Local roads only" because there was no such option.  You can go into settings and choose to not use toll roads.  That will work fine in Florida but getting across Pennsylvania is tough without the PA Turnpike.

I asked a question in the forums, especially after I ended up taking the toll road partway and it was directing me toward an exit that was marked electronic tolls only.  The first answer I got was rude, like "It's not an auto pilot.  You need to use your brain."  That's a great first impression.  (My second impression of him was worse.)  I've been using navigation apps for 6 years and someone (who was an area Waze manager), tells me I'm an idiot for expecting an app not to give me ridiculous information.  I guess because it's free, I should give it more latitude?  Telenav gave me bad advice and I had to ignore it also, since I was going in the correct direction.  (Why does Telenav always start by telling me to "turn around"?)  In any case, had I no clue about Florida's Turnpike, I might have trusted the app.  Instead, I took an exit I knew to be safe.

If this is all about the people, and there are so many smartasses using the app, I think there isn't much reason to expect real help.

I was interested but now, seeing that it's cute and amateur-ish, I'm inclined to just use Telenav again, regardless of their issues.  There are other alternatives also like Garmin, TomTom (suppliers of maps/map components to Telenav and Apple), and since yesterday, Nokia's Navteq mapping solution Here.  Eventually, Apple's data-conscious maps will work just fine.  Google's maps are still available through a browser, if I want to be at the wrong block on the wrong side of the road, wondering why the road name doesn't match.

I've tried Nokia's Here and it's not here yet.  I can't access my contacts and that makes it more difficult.  Obviously, nothing is great.

Update 2014.12.05: I've used Waze from coast to coast and it is good enough, especially after it was acquired by Google.  It has become better in searching for businesses, for navigation.  Reporting problems has become more useful.  I'm amused that it asks me if there is a slowdown when I'm at a stop light that is red.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Holy shhh...WiMAX!

Having just written about 4G or faux G this week, it's interesting to see WiMAX work well here in the Orlando, FL area.

I ran a test at last night and got over 10 Mbps (I've even recorded over 13.5 Mbps).  This is exceptionally good considering that I'm inside a motel room and the 3G connection is fluctuating between 3G and 1xRTT.  10 Mbps is also faster than I've seen from Verizon LTE, by about 4.8 Mbps.  What Verizon has here, I really don't know.  Sprint apparently doesn't have LTE here, as that would have connected.  I may find it somewhere else in the metropolitan area.  Hmm...Oviedo, FL certainly doesn't have access to WiMAX--it barely has 3G service in my friends' house.

It's great to see a download that would take hours, take just minutes instead.

I must say that it's great (sarcasm) to be home where the service barely works at all--and Sprint doesn't think there is a problem.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Give me the real 4G!

It seems that people are so starved for data (or merely terribly impatient) that 4G mobile data can't come soon enough.

I consider how few companies had a 3G presence in the U.S.A. in late 2006 when I got my first 3G data-capable phone and things seem much less advanced for 4G than faux G today.

Given that AT&T and T-Mobile hammer home this message that they have 4G everywhere, and that even LTE itself is not truly considered a 4G technology by ITU, the U.S.A. has very little coverage that's not close to old technologies.  HSPA+ can deliver great speeds but supposedly it's inefficient or they wouldn't be trying to replace it.

I remember looking back to the iPhone launch in 2007 and AT&T had little in the way of 3G coverage.  Verizon's more recent advertising ridiculed AT&T's 3G coverage.  When AT&T realized that it looked ridiculous, they stopped naming places where they had 3G and started telling everyone that they were covered for data access.

I used WiMAX the other day, and if you don't know, WiMAX was the initial 3.5G data technology that was used by Sprint/Clear/ClearWire in the U.S.A. and had thriving networks in several other countries before LTE was available.  WiMAX in the U.S.A. was hampered by some really terrible frequency that allowed it to reach a good distance outdoors but not work much indoors at all, unable to penetrate walls with any consistency.

In my experience, I haven't seen much difference between the speed of WiMAX and LTE in this area.  Both hovered around 5 Mbps download speed for me, on Sprint and Verizon, respectively.  Once Verizon completes their rollout of LTE, that will likely change, as they'll have a similar number of towers, plus a faster technology.  Of course, Sprint isn't sitting still and with the boost of Softbank, maybe they'll have some decent LTE coverage by the end of 2013.  Maybe, we'll all have some decent LTE coverage by then.

My mobile hotspot supports WiMAX and LTE, plus 3G, so I'm mostly prepared except that Sprint will add a lower frequency once they decommission the last of Nextel's iDEN network, which operates at 800 MHz.  Unfortunately, the mobile hotspot doesn't cover Sprint's lower 3G frequency either, so when things get rough, the tough have to pack it up and forget the internet.  (I was wondering why my phone had better connections than my dedicated, data-only device.  Now, I know.)

I wonder how 4G coverage will change 2G coverage.  There are still places where I see no 3G coverage but I understand that AT&T are re-purposing their 2G towers for 4G spectrum in metropolitan areas.

This weekend, I'll likely be on the move and I should pass through Atlanta (stuck on I-75 isn't much of a place to test), where Sprint already has LTE active in some state of service.  Whether I'll actually find coverage or not will be interesting.  I'm likely to find WiMAX coverage in the Orlando area (10-13Mbps on I-drive!).  WiMAX was a mixed bag in southeastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, and southern New Jersey.  At my motel in Wilmington/Newark/Christiana Delaware, WiMAX was the only reliable technology.  Voice calls were absolutely horrible but I was getting 4+ Mbps from WiMAX in the same location.

If I look back to my entry into 3G data in the second half of 2006 to now, it took probably 4 years for 3G to be strong enough to be considered everywhere.  Can we wait until 2015 or 2016?

Update 2013.10.26: It's nearly a year later and AT&T is claiming to have the fastest and most reliable LTE network.  Verizon seems to have the most coverage, although putting LTE on 1 tower is not really coverage, is it?  Sprint has started their LTE network and they've changed greatly by being 70 some percent owned by Softbank telecommunications of Japan, and Sprint bought Clearwire, of which they were already a majority shareholder and customer.  T-Mobile has accelerated their network buildout by buying MetroPCS and their LTE network.  Still, it's mostly Verizon and AT&T at this point.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Nikon is on a roll, like butter and jelly

I'm glad to see Nikon clawing their way back from the depths of despair.

The company seemed forever doomed to produce adequate digital SLRs, until the D300 arrived.

While I was not surprised by the D4 or the D800, the D3200 was a surprise.  The D5200 had to arrive just to hold off Canon's latest consumer entry.  I don't see it as good or bad but with the D7000's metering and auto focus, it should grab mind share and hopefully, market share.

I was really hoping to see the replacements for the D300s and the D7000.  As far as I'm concerned, the D7000 is the entry level, as I won't work without dust and splash protection.  Apparently, a lot of people can't wrap their minds around what seems to be a fact--that the D600 is the entry level (feature-wise) FX/135 format frame model.  It's priced above the D300s for a reason, the sensor is more expensive.  They can't put everything in there and charge a cheaper price.

Does this mean that the D300s won't be replaced?  I believe a replacement is still on the way but it all seems a bit crowded now.  Hopefully, they'll bring a sensor with superior image quality and an extended ISO sensitivity range, rather than push a huge number of pixel sites.  I would expect that the D7000 replacement would share the sensor, but there will be improvements similar to what the D800 got for the D300s replacement and nothing so grand for the D7000 replacement.

I'm still confused about what Nikon are doing with their lenses.  I was reading a few reviews on the 70-200mm Mk II and I wasn't impressed.  For that much money (and weight), I think it should wash the dishes, in addition to cooking a meal.  It's not a bad lens, but I would expect wide open goodness, the kind you couldn't find on another platform.  I'm reading similar reviews for other lenses.  Canon would like you to believe that their lenses are superior, but of course, they're not.  They're just a different exterior colour.  Since Sony are trying something similar with the exterior of their lenses, they should all do it.  I'm sure Pentax with have some Lego-like coloured lens bodies to brighten the day.  I saw the Olympus micro Four-Thirds 12mm f/2.0 has a special edition black body for an extra US$300.  That's serious money, just to match the lens to your camera body.  I'd rather buy some lens from Schneider-Kreuznach for that kind of pricing.

In any case, kudos to Nikon for presenting some fine equipment.  I hope that 2013 finishes their expanded lineup although 2012 would be ideal.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

iPad mini will probably drive full-sized iPad sales higher

I wrote earlier in the year that I wanted a 7.x inch iPad since the 7 inch Android tablets just weren't right for me.

However, after trying Apple's iPad mini (rumored since the second generation iPad was rumored), I don't think it's for me.  Sure, it's a good size, but there are too many compromises at the current time, even as a refurbished device, for me to buy.
  • Device width: it's a bit too wide for my hand and so, it's slightly uncomfortable whereas the Nexus 7 is just right.
  • Screen resolution: I've known that it would be 1024x768 for over a year and the bigger the display, the less great any resolution is.  Does an HD tv look better at 70 inches than at 42 inches?  No.  It's the same 1920x1080.  You have to sit further away to not see the problems with the low resolution.  1024x768 also won't play 720p resolution (1280x720) movies correctly since it has to downsize them.
  • An older processor: mind you, the screen resolution drives which processor is needed but not putting better hardware into it seems odd, unless you're planning next year to put a better, but still old processor into it and call it improved.  I could see where they have plans to replace the A5 with the A6 and leave the price the same.  No, thanks.
  • Price: I'm all for companies making a fair profit but Apple, you're trying to re-coup all your costs at once.  Even a $30 cheaper price would have made the compromises easier to swallow.

Half of me wants to drive to Cupertino and ask people in charge what they were thinking.  Yes, it's as portable as I wanted.  Yes, it integrates with my current software for iOS.  No, it's not what I want.  For the price they're asking, I'd get a refurbished third generation iPad for a bit more money and be rather careful trying to use it in tight spaces.  Yes, the performance of the fourth generation is excellent but this is about price--and dock connectors, too, which are also about price.

The other half of me wants to be a renegade and somehow push iOS into my Nexus 7 tablet, so I have a great tablet and a great operating system.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Be careful who you trounce, you might just know them

Tuesday, I had stopped in the town where I've been helping my friend with his family's Chinese restaurant.  They have various stores such as Target and Staples that this town doesn't have and that aren't closer.

After spending some time talking to him, I visited a few stores and finished, ready to head home.  Someone in a Buick SUV was in the right turn lane and decided that I wasn't important, so they cut me off.  Being that we were getting both heavy wind and heavy rain from Sandy, I thought this was an excellent example of what not to do, unless you wanted to have an accident.

There are over 30 miles from there to my house and it was amusing to find that the person turned into a driveway about 2 miles from my house.  I had been following them the whole way since it was also my way home.  I can only imagine that there might have been a bit of panic from time to time.  "Why is that car still behind me?" and "What are they doing?" would seem to be appropriate thoughts.

Drivers of most cars don't seem to care but SUV drivers seem to think that they can do anything they want, without consequence.  I wonder if that person will think twice next time.

Also considering Hurricane Sandy, I had been watching DirecTV's channel 349 where they routed coverage from New York City and Philadelphia television stations.  I was saddened to see that the Atlantic City, New Jersey boardwalk was gone, and that a lot of the coastal areas were close to gone.  Since the hurricane came ashore in A.C., it's no wonder so much was devastated.  They were also talking about Long Beach Island and its million dollar homes.  What I saw of it always looked a bit craptacular but I wasn't looking for the buildings.

I heard and read that New Jersey's main electric utility had to shut down power to avoid electrocuting people and causing complicated damage and fires.  It was a great decision, but of course, there are people without power.  Some people are also getting sick from the generator fumes, but they're probably keeping the generator in the garage so it doesn't get wet.

Having spent eight years in the area, I think of all the people I met and how I hope that they're fine now.  Having spent a good portion of late 2004 with three hurricanes and without power for part of that, I know that people will survive rough conditions.  I know that people in Philly and New Jersey and New York City can tough it out.  I'm keeping them in my thoughts regardless.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

...from sea to shining sea...

I've seen a lot of the U.S.A. and I've enjoyed it.  I've been to maybe 40 of the states in some way, at some time, and I've travelled through many as an adult.

Who knew that driving coast-to-coast could be so exhilarating, as well as tiring?  I drove three, 15 hour days from Central Florida to Los Angeles, California in 2005 and 2006.  Somewhere around 2800 miles one way is an awesome journey.  I would stop on either side of Texas along I-10 because Texas in itself was a 15 hour ride.  Imagine the effort to get to the west coast when the settlers were moving that way.  They did not have roads, but they might have had trails.

I suspect a lot of people never travel far from their home state, unless they're going to Disney parks or Universal parks or maybe even Sea World.  My first year in the U.S.A., we travelled from the San Francisco bay area to Indiana for Christmas with my adoptive mum's family.  We did this in a 1960 VW Beetle over U.S. 40, I believe, since there were no interstate highways at the time.  Imagine the Rocky Mountains in the winter, especially in a car with very little power.  It was actually the best car when there was bad weather.  My adoptive parents used to talk about all the big cars that slid off the road, while they were able to continue.

I would think that a car ride would be better than plane travel, especially after all the new restrictions and security checks.  I just want to be able to stop to photograph something or stop to get ice cream--when I want.  Yes, the price of gasoline is high, but so is the price of jet fuel and because of that, a plane ticket.  Of course, I won't be driving to Hawaii any time soon.  When I first travelled from Japan to the U.S.A., it was on a ship.  I was sandwiched between some Toyota cars and Sony transistor radios.  Okay, so I'm joking about that last part, slightly.  I learned to walk aboard ship, which is probably why I tend to be more steady on a subway train that on concrete.

In the next week or two, I'm heading to Philadelphia and then, to Central Florida.  I'm not sure whether I'm getting away or just trying to resolve the past.  The food in Philly is great, and the sunshine in Central Florida is great.  I can say that I enjoy Philadelphia because the people are genuine.  You know where you stand with people without question.  They don't like you--they tell you.  Here, and in most of the country, I think you find out because three other people know about what that person said.

People in other parts of the country can say bad about Philly, New York, and New Jersey but being open with people is less stressful than keeping it all inside you.  Besides, the food gets a lot of the passion because of it, most likely.  Tell me where there is better (American) Italian food than in that area?  There isn't any.

The whole country is full of great things to see and do.  I'm not talking about the world's biggest ball of twine, but there are so many great people who have done and are doing great things all over the country.  You don't even have to look at dams or steer a raft on the rapids of a river.  Meeting people along the way can be an adventure.  Not everyone is like those people on television or in the movies--even the people in Southern California.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Stock Market "Anal"ysts

So, I follow Apple a bit too closely.  I missed out on buying a lot of stock in 1995 when they were at $13.50 per share.  Instead, I bought a Macintosh clone computer with the money.  That was a great choice, yes?

For years, since each quarterly demise of Apple, I watch the analysts predict the outcome--incorrectly.  Apple's CFO has the numbers for guidance in the next quarter and they ignore it totally and provide something unrealistic instead.

What happens?  Apple falls short (of unrealistic estimates but close to their own guidance).

I can only imagine why the "anal"ysts continue to choose their own path when it should be obvious, even to them, that they're consistently wrong.  Does it help them sell stock afterwards when the price drops?  Are they creating the price drop and buying stock?

Wall Street, like so much else, needs oversight.  I don't want big government, but without it, the gray areas overwhelm people and business and hurt us all.  Remember how stock brokerages were still pitching Enron shares when they were deep into their crisis?  If they're so smart, why wouldn't they know that the company was about to collapse?

Of course, the SEC should have been watching a lot of things and didn't.  After we read about Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, why wasn't the agency cleansed?  Federal "workers" who do no work shouldn't be on the payroll, should they?

However, Wall Street is a huge gray area, and these people watching the stock market will continue to take care of themselves, regardless of their customers.  That would seem to be their only agenda, so I still have to wonder why they can't estimate quarterly numbers realistically.  Perhaps, they're working under the influence.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A tale of two tablets

In a few minutes, Apple will start their presentation of several new products including the 7.85 (7.9 inch, actually) inch iPad, if that's actually the size, only they know at this time.  Six days later, Google are going to announce their next Nexus phone and re-formulated Nexus tablets, probably including a 10.1 inch model.

At this point, these tablets may be the only tablets you'll want, unless of course, you're okay living in the somewhat limited land.  I'm a fan of the Kindle Fire HD but it's not for me, as I'm not looking specifically for a book reader.

In the last 10 days, I bought a Nexus 7 tablet--right before the rumours started about the doubled storage version for the same price.  I was impressed by the display and disappointed with the jerky performance.  I could read Japanese and Chinese clearly and that's unusual in a 1280x800 display.  On the other hand, while playing my favourite mobile game, Galaxy on Fire (THD, in this case), the graphics would be flowing smoothly and suddenly jerk, as if different parts caught up with each other.  Had I not been using 3 (2 on iOS, 1 on Mac OS X) other versions of the game, I'd think that the game developers were not very good.

For most people, will this be a problem?  No.  They'll browse the web and handle e-mail and play Furious Pigeons, errrm, Angry Birds splendidly--I never use that word--splendidly.  They'll realize that the Nexus 7 tablet is the best thing since sliced bread and enjoy that they only paid US$249.99 for it.  I would have, except for the one issue--I may again.

Now, when Apple reveals their new tablet, and their enhanced 9.7 inch tablets, they'll have a rush of people buying the new models.  What's new about that?  They always have someone rushing to buy their products after the announcement.

I'm expecting that all tablet models will have agreeable LTE/4G connections in countries where LTE is fairly well populated, especially Australia where the government attacked Apple on LTE that didn't work with their networks.  The "new" iPad will be revised further to include their latest processor (A6X) with enhanced graphics capabilities and overall increased performance.

Rumours in the last few days suggest that the 7.85 (7.9) inch tablet will start at US$329 (correct!) instead of US$249.  I suppose this is reasonable for the increased display area.  Someone has to pay for that extra 0.85 inches.  I'm sure they've tested the heck out of it and performance will be as smooth as the idiomatic hot knife through butter.  Take that Google and announce something that smooth on the 29th!

I'm also looking forward to changes in the iMac, Mac mini, and more today, but most of the attention will go to the tablets.

Update: I'm confused as to Apple's attempt to put us to sleep with the iPad mini.  It's a good tablet but it's made up of older bits that did a very good job when they were new, but it's 2012, not 2011.  The Nexus 7 hardware with iOS would be great.  I'll probably buy an iPad mini when they're refurbished.  Since Google's presentation didn't happen, due to Hurricane Sandy, the new hardware arrived without much notice.  The Samsung-based Nexus 10 is a capable tablet with revisions on the latest ARM designs, and it's beaten handily, apparently in some early testing, by the fourth generation iPad.

Update 2: I returned my Nexus 7 tablet, with much trouble, and ended up buying a new 32 GB model for roughly the same price.  This one seems to have build issues, and the accelerometer seems to dislike calibration.  I really like the size and portability, but what's with making one that works correctly?  Is there so much pressure to grind these things out that few of them are good out of the box?  I saw some drop and water testing and was surprised that the Nexus 7 didn't survive.  Now, I'm doubly careful, and I'm extra careful anyway.  It's obviously not any better than the previous model, except for the storage capacity.  It's a missed opportunity, but perhaps Android 4.2.x will make it better.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Google Nexus my house [and gone, twice]

A few things changed and I drove to Sam's Club and picked up a Google Nexus 7 tablet.  Unfortunately, they didn't have a case or sleeve for them, but they're still relatively new and they also didn't have cases or sleeves for the Samsung Galaxy tablets.

I sat down with a slice of pizza, a drink, and proceeded to start the tablet.  It was easy to set up, and I was in business quickly.  It remembered part of what was me, from the Android-based phone, but because they don't store apps information for deleted but still wanted apps, it couldn't tell me which apps to download or otherwise, help me decide.  (Surprise! They saved my history in the web/desktop version of Google Play and I was able to initiate downloads to the Nexus 7 from there! Well done!)

I went over to Target, thinking that they try to cover all bases (what an idiom!) but they had nothing relevant, either.

The tablet was charging on the way home.  My microUSB-based charger from my Android-based phone (and the previous phone) worked just fine, although it heated up more than usual.  I noticed that the battery has a similar mAh rating as the battery in my MacBook.  That's a lot for such a small device.

After I arrived home, I started downloading some apps, including Galaxy on Fire 2 THD (Total Harmonic Distortion came to mind immediately), which is apparently the nVidia Tegra version.  It must be just me, but it seems strange that you download a tiny (4 MB?) app, and after you start it, it wants to download another 507 MB, I believe.  This was priced as "Free" in the Google Play store but once you get to a certain point in the story, they want payment.

I thought back for a minute to the point where I added my card to Google Checkout about the time I got the Android-based phone.  A week or so later, I received charges on my Visa Check Card, directly affecting my checking account.  I really didn't want to repeat that with Google Wallet or whatever mechanism they're now using.  I'm not sure whether it's safe or not.  I'll likely succumb to the demand, but I won't be comfortable for a while.

The tablet performs admirably and the display is wonderful.  Japanese and Chinese are clearly rendered, which is generally difficult.  The Tegra 3 4+1 core CPU seems to keep things flowing smoothly and I'm sure that Jelly Bean (4.1.2) adds to the favourable experience.  However, I find that Android still seems put together by a committee.  It looks as though they've massaged it here and there and refined it otherwise, but it still seems such a beta test release of software.

Apps work smoothly and are launched quickly, which is a huge difference from my previous Android experience.  As I've thought in the past, version 4 is a good starting point for Android--what should have been the 1.0 release.  Where is the !@#$ screenshot combination?  I use the Power button and the Home button on iOS and I have a screenshot, but nothing on Android but getting a separate app.  Another thing that's bugging me: if they want to get rid of the menu button, why is the menu button still used so frequently, though it's just hidden to the side?

I'm sure it will be interesting in the future, but it's still going to take time to learn to work it correctly and well.  Google and ASUS, you did a good job.

Update: Wouldn't you know it, there are rumors that Google and ASUS will release a 32 GB model for a similar price in the next few days.  That kind of thing has happened more than once.  When I bought a Nintendo Wii, for instance, it was reduced in price 8 days from then.  I returned the Nexus 7 to Sam's Club and the associate asked me if there was something wrong with all of them because they were getting a lot of returns.  I doubt it would be because of the price/new configurations since they have a time window for returns.  They have great hardware but they're just not great with Jelly Bean (Android 4.1.x) so far.  Let's see what happens on the 29th.

Update 2: I returned the 16 GB version, with much trouble, to Sam's Club and they had it a few days later (around the 29th) for $199.99. I later bought the 32 GB version at Staples with their accidental protection plan.  Given that cases are almost non-existent at the moment, anything could happen.  Staples had both the 16 GB and 32 GB versions at $249.99, and the protection plan was not yet priced, so it had a placeholder of $9999.99, a bit much.  The second tablet is a bit creaky, as if it was put together more hastily than the previous tablet I had.  Still, it seems to fit my hand better than the new iPad mini.  I'm sure the iPad mini is a better experience overall, but I'm not expecting revelations with any tablet.  For most of what I'm expecting, the Nexus 7 tablet fits me.

The sad thing is that I returned the second tablet.  It thought I was in Cisco, Texas for some reason, several hundred miles from my actual location.  There were other minor issues with it, but it never worked all that well.  For what it's worth, I still believe it showed a lot of promise and I still have $9.99 in it for a game that was tied to the nVidia Tegra architecture, but oh well.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Nikon Opportunities?

I was thinking about equipment options and whether I should give up the ship and switch to Nikon.  The D600 (and D7000) have given me two good options.

I keep reading about how wonderful the variety of lenses are for Nikon bodies and how I could find anything I want and they're inexpensive, also.  I'm accustomed to dust and splash-resistant lenses, so I expect to pay more.  I also want my lenses to be able to be used wide open, not stopped down.

I was browsing the Sam's Club website, which has the D7000 for US$999, a bargain, yes?  The 24-120mm f/4.0 looked good and at US$1299.99, it wasn't a bad price for a premium lens, if it could fulfill my needs.  It could be used on either the D7000 or the D600.

The reviews I've read suggest that it has problems.  Now, I realize that it has a 5x zoom and that's 1-2x more than I usually find optimal.  I current use a 4x lens and a 3.85x lens that aren't priced that high and are quite good wide open.  They're dust- and splash-proof, so I can use them in hurricane weather, which I have.

So, I went to look at other lenses and I was startled to find that most of the premium lenses don't seem all that premium and have many compromises, except for the price.

I was interested in Panasonic's GH3 with the 12-35mm and 35-100mm lenses but the 12-35mm had compromises I didn't like.  I'm finding that they're no worse than Nikon or Canon have done.  Besides that, the size is much smaller, so I can carry them more easily.  I could also have one body each and have them both at the ready.

I still would like to have a 135 format-sized body but only for the really wide angle work and maybe, Panasonic's 7-14mm would be enough for me.

I punted and ordered a refurbished version of Olympus' excellent 35-100mm f/2.0 lens.  It's about US$500 cheaper than retail.  It's only about 1.5 times the weight of my current 50-200mm and the f/2.0 should help with swimming photos since the pools appear bright but are quite dark, so I won't likely have to use flash at all.  It's also somewhat faster than Panasonic or Nikon versions covering that range.

As you'll be able to see from the photo, the 35-100mm is slightly bigger than my trusty 50-200mm, and the tripod collar seems permanently attached, although I can loosen it.  The filter size is a whole 10mm more at 77mm.  Update: I just added the excellent 14-35mm f/2.0 as well.  It's amazing how large it is.  It makes the E-5 body look smaller, especially compared to my original "kit" lens, the 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

All of the mirror-less entries have arrived for now

Now that Canon has introduced their mirror-less camera system, we have entries from each major brand:

Canon are the newest with their EOS-M.

Pentax have their K-01 and Q-system bodies; one huge, one tiny.

Nikon have a small format with the distinction of phase detection auto focus.

Samsung have had multiple models but not much success.

Sony have had multiple models and some success but lack good lenses, or many lenses of any quality.

Panasonic and Olympus originated the idea and have a diverse selection with some excellent fixed focal length lenses, but they're struggling with size and weight to bring excellent zoom lenses to the market.

Comparing them casually

To me, Canon's entry is only adequate.  They're coming to market with a mediocre set of specifications and features.  The image quality is quite nice, but they waited so long that you're paying a premium price for performance that's already been done.

Pentax have the most bizarre ideas for mirror-less cameras.  The K-01 is about the same size as their dSLRs and mounts the same lenses, but it also has all the disadvantages of mirror-less cameras with slow operation, and of course, the most unusual designer design.  The Q-system isn't really winning any friends.  It's small but it's not cute.  They could have designed it to match the old Auto 110 SLR (they had a point-and-shoot like that) and it would give people a fond memory on which to purchase the system.  Instead, they gave it a blocky design that looks uncomfortable to hold and use.  Supposedly, it doesn't work all that well, either.

Nikon have done well in selling their 1-system.  I suspect it's mostly their dSLR customers buying into the system but it's small and pocketable and cute.  They're on their second generation, and it's not as bad as it might seem from the specification.

What happened with Samsung?  They couldn't get along with Pentax?  They had worked together as Samsung got into the dSLR field but they just couldn't find common ground?  It seems as though they copied Sony style and specifications (and name, NX vs. NEX?), but came up with something almost no one really wanted.  I've been told that their dSLRs were better than the Pentax branded dSLRs from which they were originated, so why couldn't they work with Pentax so both companies would avoid embarrassment?

Sony keeps coming up with clever bodies to match their electronics focus.  Unfortunately, they made most of the bodies so compact that you need proprietary accessories.  Besides that, the lenses required by the image circle or the APS-C sized sensor have to be rather big and appear huge on the smallest bodies.  Image quality is generally good, but the compromises are high for what they're asking of the user, especially since they have few good lenses and no spectacular lenses.

I'm more inclined to believe in Panasonic and Olympus since I'm a Four-Thirds user, having two high end Olympus dSLR bodies.  They have a number of fixed focal length (prime) lenses that are quite great.  I keep reading that they're even better than those on 135 format camera bodies.  It wouldn't surprise me since Olympus has a history of great lenses.  The zoom lenses are the problem.  Both companies have chosen small and light over excellent image quality.  Panasonic often corrects lens problems in the camera's firmware and Olympus has begun to do this also.  This still doesn't excuse poor designs but for hobbyists, does it matter?  I see a lot who want a US$5000 lens for US$100 but I suppose that's always the case.  What's sadly humorous is that I cannot nitpick the others like this--they don't have the products to nitpick.  The micro Four-Thirds image quality has improved so much that many reviews of the Olympus E-M5 suggest that you need to move to 135 format (full frame, as they mistakenly call it) to see an appreciable difference.

In 10 years, will there even be a dSLR market?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Oil prices and demand

I was watching CNBC earlier and they were talking about the price of crude oil dropping, due to decreased demand.  They couldn't seem to understand why demand wasn't there.

I'm sure the people working for the network have plenty of money, so maybe they don't realize how difficult it is for many people to buy gasoline, heat their houses, etc., and eat, pay bills, etc.?

When the price of gasoline goes higher, I'm less likely to buy.  I'll hold on for a while until I really need to fill the tank.  If I'm away from the town where I live, I can often choose a location with cheaper gasoline or head to a Sam's Club with gasoline.

Of course, once the price of gasoline bottoms (at ever higher prices) and people fill their tanks, the government will report that demand is up, and the vultures will buy oil and gasoline futures again, driving prices up.

I'm thinking that the refiners aren't making huge profits this time, as they were the last couple of years.  I looked back at 2008 and oil (West Texas Crude/Intermediate?) was about $100 per barrel and the price of regular unleaded was running me about $4.15 and 9/10.  (Why are we still doing the 9/10 after all these years?  The stock market finally dropped fractions.  Of course, there was that short-lived change to liters in the 1980s.)  It wasn't that long ago we were over $4.00 per gallon but the price of a barrel of oil was relatively low.

I'm all for companies making a profit and paying their employees well, but why do they need to be pigs, messing with people's lives?  They know that some people need to drive to make money and that their pay check isn't going to increase with the price of gasoline.  It seems as though the U.S. government removing price controls really caused a lot of problems for us all, and free-r enterprise hasn't justified their changes, nor given us the mentioned benefits of increased competition.

Update: 2013.09.02: Funny how we've been through a period where they said that the demand was the lowest since the 1980s (we were struggling then, too) and yet, the prices continue to be high.   Since I've switched to diesel fuel, I'm less likely to be affected since the price doesn't fluctuate much.  Even in California, the price wasn't abnormally high but finding a station with diesel was another matter.  It's easier to find during the road trip than in a neighborhood.

As an aside, I was watching an Indianapolis news station talk about the state's unemployment rate being up a bit, somewhere in the 8.x% area.  There was no mention of the people who aren't receiving unemployment compensation, and those who have given up at all.  Indiana was an unemployment mess in the 1980s but at least, it was more honest about the reality of the situation then.  We knew that those jobs weren't returning.  There was also something on that same station about a union-related picnic and the people who talked just didn't get it.  The unions (IBEW and UAW and Steelworkers) have been responsible for many factories closing in the rust belt, but they take no responsibility, and compromise is still not an option to them.

Too many times now, the choice of food or fuel isn't a 50-50 question for those who work.  They have to go to work, and in small towns, it's not likely they can ride a bus.  In this town, you could walk, but they didn't add sidewalks in most areas since the 1950s.  Even during the expansion of U.S. 40, they left out sidewalks, as though people in wheelchairs could just slog through the mud and snow.  Where we have sidewalks, they finally finished the mandated wheelchair mini-ramps at corners.  Odd that I remember Philadelphia finishing that work in 1996.

Friday, September 21, 2012

iOS 6.0 or how lost am I?

It's time to poke a bit of fun at Apple, the saviours of the universe.

I've been fooled in the past to update as soon as possible.  When you're running Mac OS X, it usually becomes reasonably steady at the 10.x.4 version and iOS at the x.2 version, which never happened for version 5.

I feel for all of those who were enthusiastic enough to wait for the appropriate time and started downloading the update.  Of course, all of them are having some sort of problem now.  When 6.0.1 arrives (3 weeks from now?), I'm sure I'll be having some sort of problem because I'll probably be tired of waiting and want to download it.  (Update 2012.10.18: No 6.0.1 so far.)

Of course, if there are security updates, we on version 5 won't see them, will we?  That's a !@#$ shame because our devices are just as valuable, and mine (iPhone 4S) is still being sold in a modified form.  When I updated my second generation iPod touch to version 4.1, I only did it because of the security updates.  It certainly wasn't because I wanted decreased performance.  Version 4.2.1 more-or-less resolved things but not well.

I've seen all sorts of talk about the maps being a problem.  Strange, isn't it?  I didn't really have any good luck with Google maps on Android and Apple's app to access Google's maps was no prize either.  Mapquest and Telenav have my interest but Telenav's app is problematic compared to the app on my last 4 feature phones.  However, Google puts things on the wrong block or on the other side of the road, so what's worse? (Update 2012.10.18: I've learned that Apple are using vector graphics and only about 10 % of the data to accomplish their maps, giving us all a chance in areas with no 3G access.)  Update 2012.12.04: I tried the Maps application during a trip to Florida recently and was amused to see I-75 turned into some local road.  Waze was not really good, either.  If I'm sitting at a red light, am I "in traffic"?

I downloaded the YouTube app a while back and it works well, so I expect the Google maps app will work equally well.  (Update 2013.10.29: the Google maps app works reasonably well.  I've only used it once for navigation, although it made some odd decisions. Apple's maps app has been good, though confused in more dense areas.)  According to some Google big wig today (Sept. 25), they aren't planning any app.  That goes against what another said weeks ago.  They could have killed it but to say that it wasn't planned?  Apple's stock price is being hammered on the news.  It's sad that Apple are developing more and more like their competitors.  I appreciated the company for its fit and finish.  Throwing rubbish onto the street and hoping we like it is nonsense, and it stinks.

Were you in line today to buy an iPhone 5?  I read that someone in Australia bought the first one available in a brick-and-mortar store already.  I really don't see the reason to wait in line, especially hours or days.  It's a phone.

I also got the e-mail from Apple, and I saw their press release about amazing pre-order sales figures the first weekend.  Good for them.  When the iPhone 5S arrives, I'll take a look at that, as my contract will be nearing completion.  By then, the iPhone 5 features will be settled and the performance will be improved.  Maybe, it will actually be shock resistant, so I don't need a case to make it 4 times as thick, just to not have it break on a fall. (My Otterbox Defender did a great job when the phone tumbled out of my hand, leaving my motel room.)

Funny how none of my flip phones ever died from a fall and the worst was the Motorola Star Tac with a crack around the antenna housing, but apparently, they all did that.

Seeing what HTC has put out recently, I might buy another Android-based phone, if I can find a display around 4" maximum.  I really don't want to buy a bag of some sort to hold the thing.  I want it on a holster in my pocket.  Of course, if it's only half as thick as the Otterbox Defender case I have, I might be able to handle a longer phone.

Good luck to all of the phone makers, but more than that, good luck to the consumers.

Update 2014.12.05: Here I am with iOS 8.1.1 and there are still navigation issues.

I believe that the TomTom maps need a lot of improvement, even in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I often use navigation from a distance to return to stores I already know, but would have it help me avoid traffic backups.  By the time I'm close, I can generally quit navigation because almost certainly, it will tell me to make a U-turn, even though there is a proper entrance to a strip mall.

I can't speak to any of the other map vendors, but I remember using Telenav's app on my flip phones and it had me take a few U-turns that were unnecessary.

The one problem I still have with my iPhone (5c instead of the 4s now but the 4s did it also) is compass confusion.  It will turn the map at an intersection when I'm stopped.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Backlash for the Panasonic DMC-GH3, why?

I've seen a lot of negative comments about Panasonic's new body, the DMC-GH3.  I'm taking them in the context that people just hate change.

The body is bigger for better handling of larger lenses and for better ergonomics, including 5 function buttons.  To me, being bigger is a benefit, not a problem.  That the weight has only mildly increased, including the magnesium alloy structure, is a plus also.  It's also weather-sealed, and that's great for me.

I've been looking at micro Four-Thirds since it burst onto the photographic scene and I've been somewhere between disappointment and laughter.  After the Olympus E-P2 was announced, I joked that it would be the E-P14 that would finally be the complete solution.  Today's announcements have resolved that--there is no E-P5, and given the proximity of the price to the E-M5, it's no wonder.  How do you justify the E-P3 when the E-M5 gives so much more?

Now that the E-M5 has changed things, the GH3 is changing things even more.  If the photographs from the GH3 are as good as the E-M5, that will really push back the APS-C set.  The E-M5 image quality is said to be so good that to step up, you'll need to go to 135 format-sized sensors, like those of the Nikon D600 and Canon 6D.  I hope that the GH3 will match that, but I'm skeptical of Panasonic's ability with still images.

I would like to move to the GH3 but I'm still noticing the lack of superior optics where I need them, and I'm not wanting an adapter to make my current lenses work.  Panasonic has a wonderful 100-300mm f/4.0-5.6 lens, except that it's not really wonderful, except in focal length.  It's a budget lens and if they made a similar focal length, higher quality X-series lens for double (maybe triple) the price, I'd be there with cash for both the 100-300mm and the GH3.

Getting light, high quality equipment for a reasonable price is never wrong.

Zeiss and Schneider are continuing to work on new micro Four-Thirds mount lenses with full control.  Unfortunately, what I've seen so far duplicate focal lengths that are already available.  Still, the lenses are being built, even if they're slow to arrive.

I'm still disappointed in how people have reacted to the GH3 today.  It reminds me of the 1960s when Detroit's car makers' plan to make faster cars was to increase the size of the engine, without thought to brakes, handling, or fuel economy.  You could buy a European car that could make a 2800 mile cross-country trip at higher speeds with much greater safety with much less fuel usage.  Does that make Canon or Nikon General Motors and the other Ford?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Digital 135 format photography in compact sizes this week

Remember when we could go out and buy a 135 format compact camera from US$50 to US$150?  The 1980s and 1990s were full of them and, for the most part, they delivered impressive images for not much money.

When digital technology arrived for consumers in the second half of the 1990s, it was expensive, low resolution, and generally too slow to be completely useful.  I bought an Olympus D300L for around US$999, which had a resolution of 1024x768.  That was decent resolution as a lot of computer monitors were still 800x600 at that time.

A lot has changed and you can actually get decent photos out of the latest compact cameras but they're still not very good.

Sigma tried to change that with their DP1 and DP2 fixed lens compact cameras.  Giving them larger sensors helped but their operational idiosyncrasies make them a pain to use.  They really could use a makeover and any of the camera makers, no matter how bad could make them better.

Sony introduced the RX1 this week.  It uses a 135 format-sized (35mm to consumers, but 135 format was 24x36mm) sensor in a compact body.  At US$2800, it's hardly for everyone and a far stretch from those US50 compacts.  That's about the same price as a Nikon D800, but it is compact.  It should prove interesting in changing thinking about what size body goes with what size sensor.

More affordable and soon to be available, the Nikon D600 has been announced.  It's a 135 format-sized sensor in what is essentially a D7000 body at about US$2100.  The D7000 is a good, smaller body camera that goes up against the Canon 60D, and readily takes sales away from the aging D300s.

The D7000 is weather-sealed and the D600 apparently increases that to a level consistent with the D800.  You won't need one of those cutesy clip-on umbrellas to keep your equipment dry.  Just remember that your lenses have to be weather-sealed as well or you'll be spending double your money on that lens that caught your eye when you're out shooting in the rain.

I'm particularly interested in the D600 for wide angle work.  I still like my Olympus E-1 and E-5 for telephoto work but the widest option is a 7-14mm f/4.0.  It's an impressive lens but at a multiplication factor of 2.0, that's not all that close.  The maximum aperture also precludes it from a lot of indoor work.  If I can get a D600 with a wider angle (weather-proofed) zoom, I'd be pleased.  I suspect the combination wouldn't be any heavier than what the E-5 and the 7-14mm would be.  It's only in the telephoto area where Olympus and the E-system really shine.

I'm interested to see more and more compact bodies containing bigger sensors, but mostly we need to get back to reason.  We no longer need huge digital bodies to create great images.  Those pseudo-professional fanatics whose Canikon camera bodies have the kit lens and are set to Auto mode with auto focus are crying about the changes, but they'll find that they'll be in the minority, as professionals seem to be picking up mirror-less system cameras for holiday.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Apple, I'm so not surprised at your iPhone/iPod announcement

Today's announcements were hardly a surprise, despite a company long concerned about secrecy.

As I wrote in an earlier entry, I'm not too concerned with what this announcement brought.  I'm not switching phones after only one year, since any new phone is not going to cook, clean, do the dishes, and pay the bills for me.  Only the most fanatical would pay an early termination fee at this time, yes?

Does anyone remember that there were electronics-related announcements last week?  Probably not.

I'm glad to see the iPod nano get some love.  It hardly looks the right shape or size to be a watch this time.  They went through tall and skinny at the start, and moved to wide and dumpy, then to square, and back to tall and skinny with video playback.  It seems a good choice for a lot of people, especially runners who don't want to be bothered by a phone while they're running.  There was a time when we all left the phone at home and just enjoyed the time away from it.

The iPod touch got a needed upgrade, but is it enough?  It used to be that the iPod touch was more powerful than the iPhone, but that's no longer the case.  It has the longer display without the newer processor, likely making it a poorer performer than with the last generation although it's been behind the times for a while.  Hopefully, it's the A5x processor that the third generation iPad has, instead of the A5 processor that powers the iPhone 4S.  I've found my 4S to be slow graphically in some situations.  Pushing more pixels with the new display, the processor certainly wouldn't be faster.

Everyone I'm sure is ready for a revamped version of iTunes.  They announced version 11 but are they just cosmetic changes or will it be fluid and more versatile?  When I moved from a 1.33 GHz PowerBook to a dual core 2.13 GHz MacBook, I didn't really see much improvement with iTunes and it was still an assemblage of messes.  I know the problem of communicating across the wire and coordinating files, but Apple always assumed that the iTunes user was wrong and they knew better.  They never asked, and never explained anything.

What I'm waiting to see is how the critics on both sides react.  I don't want to see how the fanatics will react because it's a given that they'll be ridiculous.  Will companies with devices based on Android feel the need to change further?

I'm interested to see how LTE-enabled phones work.  I just saw a message that the U.S. bound Sprint and Verizon versions of iPhone can work with LTE networks overseas but the AT&T version will not.  Considering the mess of network deployment and that it's all still a mass of confusion, will anyone win in 2012?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

New iPhone? Who cares?

In November 2011, I bought my first iPhone, a 4S model with 32 GB of storage.  It's been more than sufficient, but it's also been a pain at times.  In reality, it's no worse or no better than an Android-based phone.  I had one of those the previous year.

Apple and Google are figuring it out as they go along.  For that matter, so is Microsoft.

When I bought the iPhone 4S, someone at the Sprint store said that I'd be buying the new one in a year.  I shook my head, as there was a 2 year contract, and I didn't care that much to switch.  The main reason I switched from my Android-based phone was that it was short on storage and getting so many low storage warnings was annoying.  Gingerbread wasn't any more bug-free than Froyo was.  Had they put Ice Cream Sandwich on it and tripled the storage, I might still be using that phone.

I don't see a reason to pay a huge fee and buy a new iPhone model simply because there is no good reason.  They'll go to a less breakable form using stronger materials?  That's good but it's been said that it's thinner than the current model.  Why?  Keep it the same thickness and increase the protection and/or battery capacity.

It will have a bigger, longer display?  Great, but there isn't anything wrong with the current display for me.  960x640 is a good resolution, and the graphics hardware still doesn't quite keep up with it, although it's better than the iPhone 4 could do.  I'm sure they'll upgrade the hardware but if it only equals the performance of the 4S, they're not doing enough.

The rumour about the LTE capabilities gives me a bit of hope.  They've supposedly decided to work with various carriers around the world to provide compatible LTE frequencies and make the phone worthwhile, as the premium phone it is.  I've used WiMAX and LTE and have found both to be useful.  Besides, for those of us still on 3G technologies, moving people to close-to-4G technologies (WiMAX Plus and LTE Advanced were given 4G branding by ITU) will offload 3G data capacity and help people with older equipment.  Since so many people own smart phones at this time, any diversification would be helpful.  In a country so big (4000km/2800 miles wide on my last trip), you can't hope for coverage everywhere you go.

While I'm glad to see that Apple (and Google) are continuing to make progress, I'm glad to sit this one out and wait for the customers to file lawsuits about something they didn't research.  How much can you expect from people who don't know that hot coffee is hot?

As the new iPhone models will be announced shortly, so will iOS 6 and the latest bugs out of Cupertino, California.  I'm still waiting for iOS 5.2 and hoping for 5.3 but they've stopped.  Apple need to change their behaviour about this.  They do not provide security updates for previous releases.  Mobile phones would seem to be more vulnerable than any other devices simply because they're constantly connected.  If Apple care so much about security (actions speak louder than words, I'm told), then the company should do something to prove it.

Still, I'm looking forward to announcements this week and I'm wondering if a couple new iPad models will be included.

Already, delivery has slipped to 2-3 weeks for pre-orders.  I'm guessing that it's a minor success so far.  I'm expecting to hear how millions were pre-ordered.

One more thing: I just saw "Backside illumination sensor" and I'm thinking that someone will ask why they would want their backside illuminated while doing video with their family.

Friday, September 7, 2012's Home Run

So, most people know that introduced new e-readers and tablets on Thursday.  They're quite good for what they are.

The trouble I've seen in the first comments I've seen is that the Android crowd thinks that they're not a good deal when you have to modify them for their purposes.  The people are targeting are not technology people or Android/Google fanatics.  They're targeting people who want to read books and magazines and listen to music or watch movies.

You get a great deal, if you want to live in's eco-system for their products.  Oh, by the way, their products are books, music, and video.  The e-readers and tablets are just intermediate devices to help you enjoy their products.  That's just the opposite of what Apple are doing.  They make the media available to sell the hardware.  Elsewhere, you find the circus of Google and Android with throwaway tablets to too expensive, mediocre tablets but only the Google Nexus 7 really being worth buying.

They could be my personal choice, but they aren't.  Once again, the size isn't ideal but for the 7" Kindle Fire HD tablet, the shape makes the size more acceptable.  It's easier to hold, even if it isn't the shape of a movie.  Considering that 16:9 isn't the correct shape for the widest movies, and 21:9 televisions are just starting to be available, going wide may not be possible in a practical way.

The new paper white display, at the bottom of the heap, is to my thinking better late than never.  Re-creating the printed page is important to many users, and probably to the writers.  If you have a vision for your work, it's hardly trying to look at a dark, blurry display to make out words.  You want your words to make hearts beat faster by pushing the imagination to new levels. have done a great job anticipating their customers' desires.  They should do well.  The fact that they're using the Android operating system won't really matter to their users.  They just want to consume media.  I just saw their new advertising on BBC America.  It was completely brilliant.  They understand and it was as slick and savvy as Apple's best adverts.

Update: 2013.09.10: Given that tablets are changing rapidly and that Barnes & Noble have given up on producing their own Nook line, has more to do and more to enjoy.  It's likely that they have the safest Android-based tablets but that means that most Android lovers will tell people that is a bad thing--that people using them are fenced into a kiddie playground, instead of being out with the adults.  It's probably true, but drunk drivers hit trees on the way home, don't they?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Apple retail is unfriendly, almost hostile now

I saw this article on MacRumors:

The last time I visited an Apple store in a mall, it felt uncomfortable.  It was tremendously crowded and the employees seemed to force smiles.  Software availability was at a minimum, and there were so many iDevices that there wasn't much room for traditional computers.

The first time I visited an Apple store was just after September 11, 2001.  Apple opened a retail store in Tampa's International Plaza near the airport.  A couple of friends lived northwest of there and I drove from the Orlando area to get them and go to the store together.  When we started to walk toward the mall, we stopped for a moment and realized the silence.  It was eerie.  There wasn't much activity other than people going to the new mall but all air travel had been suspended, and next to an airport, you'd expect to hear planes occasionally.

Finding the Apple store, there was a queue/line to enter.  I felt like one of the fanatics being there early enough to see the store open for the first time.  (I have a love-hate relationship with Apple, so it was strange.  I love their hardware designs, especially internally, but I'm always frustrated with their operating systems and lack of fixes.)  Being with friends, one of whom sold Apple equipment, I was interested to see how they would react.

As the store opened, the staff were cheering, and handing out t-shirts in tubes.  I was immediately reminded of The Gap clothing store, where I never shopped.  (Mind you, I've shopped at Old Navy and Banana Republic.)  The equipment was out on (fake) wood tables lining the walls, while there were two huge rows of software centrally located.  Given that Mac-related software was almost impossible to find at the time, this was as close to heaven as it came for a Mac user.  Of course, everything was at full retail pricing, even though you could occasionally find software elsewhere at a discount.

The store was pleasant and Apple made sure that employees kept you comfortable.  I remember mentioning that they should serve cappuccino and biscuits.  It had that kind of a feel.

I'll jump forward to 2006, to a store in the Los Angeles/Orange County area.  The previous year, I bought a PowerBook, and the company was making the transition to Intel processors when I was there at the store.  I was looking at a MacBook and its unusual keyboard.  (If you ever saw an iBook with most of its keys missing, you'll understand why they changed the keyboard.) A staffer started talking to me, and asked how I was, and if I was interested, and as soon as I got through the name "PowerBook", he turned and walked away.  How rude!  Considering the article, this was far earlier than 2009, when they were revising the store and its policies.

In 2007, as the iPhone became the holy grail and fandom, I became less and less settled with the fanatics.  I noticed that Apple were feeling similarly, banning some Mac-related website authors from their media events.  Having been at the Genius Bar in one of the Orlando area stores, I was practically assaulted by an iPhone owner who put the phone within 6 inches of my face, telling me how beautiful it was.  He could hardly catch his breath, he was so excited.

it seems with every new iDevice release, Apple has become a distant relative, even though I had a second generation iPod touch and now have an iPhone 4S to replace it.  My current computer is a mid-2009 MacBook on 10.6.8.  I'd like to update it, but they'll put that !@#$ Mountain Lion on it and it's not what I want.

In any case, I don't look forward to visits to the Apple store, especially if I have problems with the iPhone.  I did this once already.  (Seriously, Apple, if the phone's operating system can't clean up after itself, why should I do it manually?  This stinks like Multi-Finder and setting memory allocations.)  The probably is finding Apple equipment otherwise, although some Best Buy and fewer Target stores have Apple equipment available.  However, you don't have to deal with the fanatics and in Best Buy, you'll probably find more software available, since Apple has pushed everything (but Adobe software) to their online store.

It's just not fun or interesting now, and maybe Tim Cook and Peter Oppenheimer will see that and realize that profit > customer is not the correct relationship.