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?