gadgets

A Low-Cost, Carbon Dioxide Monitoring System for Estimating Household Air Exchange Rates

Pillarisetti A, Lam NL, Pokhrel A, Hill LA, Allen T, Kunwar B, Pandey B, Thapa S, Sijali TR, Smith KR, Bates MN. A Low-Cost, Carbon Dioxide Monitoring System for Estimating Household Air Exchange Rates. International Society of Exposure Science. Henderson, Nevada: October 2015.

A week with the Sony DSC-RX1

I took off to Basel a couple weeks ago for a large environmental health conference. Before leaving, I rented a Sony DSC-RX1 from borrowlenses.com and picked it up at RayKo in San Francisco. Switching from my normal photography kit — a 5D Mark II, a 17-40 f/4 L, and a 50mm L — to this wee little gadget felt like an impossible stretch. I’ve shot almost exclusively on Canon gear since I borrowed my family’s old Canon T90 in the late 80s. I was a little scared of something new (we fear change) and concerned about how long it would take me to figure out the Sony.

The RX1 turned out to be a delight — the camera produced pictures on par with the Mark II and the fixed focal length forced me to stop and think before shooting. A good exercise for any photographer. Somewhat organized thoughts and notes on the camera follow.

At first glance, the RX1 is underwhelming — it resembles a standard point + shoot. It looks pedestrian. All that goes away, though, once in hand. It’s weighty and substantial, dense and solid. The glass — a spectacular Zeiss 35mm prime f/2.0 — has a satisfying, clicky (and wholly electronic) ring for selecting an aperture. The RX1 borrows styling cues from old school rangefinders (Leicas, the Contax G series). It’s got a full-frame 24 megapixel sensor and shoots 14-bit raw images. The screen is bright — really, really bright — and displays images vividly and accurately in broad daylight (no small feat). The overlays on the screen are nice and completely controllable; you can quickly turn on and off a batrillion status indicators. A nice touch: the ability to enable an on-screen level, helping compose the shot and avoiding rotating/cropping during post-processing. The RX1 - with this combination of fancy and traditional - is an odd gadget, full of ultra-modern, high-end technology, but formed wholly by older platonic ideals of what a camera should be.

The wonderful lens, the beautiful controls, and the insane, huge, magnificent sensor all come with some caveats. The RX-1 has no optical or electronic viewfinder. I spent the better part of my time with the camera lifting it to my face, looking for something to look through — and then remembering that my viewfinder was the screen on the back (now complete with cheek imprints). For me, that was the single most difficult thing to become accustomed to. The cost to play is high — 2800 USD. The fixed lens confused colleagues who handled the camera; once they played with it for a few minutes they wondered about other lens options. Their reaction — that at its cost, a fixed lens seemed inappropriate — wasn’t surprising.

The image quality is astounding. The RX1 performs much like other full-frame cameras — it does a great job up to ISO 3200, and fine beyond that. I shot regularly across the gamut — from 100 to 3200 — and am pleased with all of the results. The focus times weren’t nearly as fast as the Mark II, but weren’t slow enough to be a real concern, except when it was between dim and dark where I was shooting. While the focusing often failed under those conditions, the image quality held up. Battery life wasn’t great — the camera made it through most days of shooting with little power left. This was okay in Basel, where most of my days were spent in a conference center and away from camera-worthy moments. If I had been outdoors more and working less, I’m confident I would have exhausted the batteries regularly. On the upside, the camera can be charged with any portable USB battery; the downside, of course, is the added bulk. Were I to rent the RX1 again, I’d get one or two extra batteries (and an external viewfinder).

Downsides… The menus run deep and require some serious thought to decipher. They’re better than on many cameras, but that’s not saying much. Another nice touch: most of the physical buttons on the camera can be reassigned to custom functions. This helped me get comfortable with the camera much more quickly, putting commonly used controls in easy reach.

I could go on and on about this camera. But others have done that, and far more eloquently and capably than I. This, in my opinion, is the camera to beat. It redefines what a small and light camera can be, and does so without compromising image quality. It’s not perfect, but if I could afford one, it would be my go to daily camera.

"Warp drive. Like on 'Star Trek.'"

Harold G. White, a physicist and advanced propulsion engineer at NASA, beckoned toward a table full of equipment there on a recent afternoon: a laser, a camera, some small mirrors, a ring made of ceramic capacitors and a few other objects.

He and other NASA engineers have been designing and redesigning these instruments, with the goal of using them to slightly warp the trajectory of a photon, changing the distance it travels in a certain area, and then observing the change with a device called an interferometer. So sensitive is their measuring equipment that it was picking up myriad earthly vibrations, including people walking nearby. So they recently moved into this lab, which floats atop a system of underground pneumatic piers, freeing it from seismic disturbances.

The team is trying to determine whether faster-than-light travel — warp drive — might someday be possible.

Warp drive. Like on “Star Trek.”

This is a fun one. They’ve also got a nice statement from Neil deGrasse Tyson:

“Routine travel among the stars is impossible without new discoveries regarding the fabric of space and time, or capability to manipulate it for our needs,” he said, adding, “By my read, the idea of a functioning warp drive remains far-fetched, but the real take-away is that people are thinking about it — reminding us all that the urge to explore continues to run deep in our species.”

NYTimes: "A single word tucked into a presidential speech...

Justin Gillis, writing in the NYT about Obama's choice to use the word divest:

He knows that if he is to get serious climate policies on the books before his term ends in 2017, he needs a mass political movement pushing for stronger action. No broad movement has materialized in the United States; 350.org and its student activists are the closest thing so far, which may be why Mr. Obama gazes fondly in their direction.

“I’m going to need all of you to educate your classmates, your colleagues, your parents, your friends,” he said plaintively at Georgetown. “What we need in this fight are citizens who will stand up, and speak up, and compel us to do what this moment demands.”

Let's hope the movement towards divestment grows.

Steve Jobs's Parable of the Stones

But what I’ve always felt is that a team of people doing something they really believe in is like… When I was a young kid there was a widowed man that lived up the street. He was in his eighties. He was a little scary looking. And I got to know him a little bit. I think he may have paid me to mow his lawn or something.

And one day he said to me, “come on into my garage, I want to show you something.” And he pulled out this dusty old rock tumbler. It was a motor and a coffee can and a little band between them. And he said, “Come on with me.” We went out into the back and we got just some rocks. Some regular old ugly rocks. And we put them in the can with a little bit of liquid and a little bit of grit powder, and we closed the can up and he turned this motor on and he said, “Come back tomorrow.”

And this can was making a racket as the stones went around.

And I came back the next day, and we opened the can. And we took out these amazingly beautiful polished rocks. The same common stones that had gone in — and through rubbing against each other like this, creating a little bit of friction, creating a little bit of noise — had come out these beautiful polished rocks.

That’s always been in my mind as a metaphor for a team working really hard on something they’re passionate about. It’s that through the team, through that group of incredibly talented people bumping up against each other, having arguments, having fights sometimes, making some noise, and working together, they polish each other and they polish the ideas, and what comes out are these really beautiful stones.

The Internet, a series of tubes.

Google’s data center doors flung open earlier this week. And, somehow, it looks remarkably like Ted Stevens’ often-teased quotation about the internet being nothing but “a series of tubes.”

click here to see many more photos from Google’s data centers

Obviously, that’s not the whole of it. The tubes, the languages, the infrastructure all come together, a weird amalgamation of technologies that gives rise to our internet, a sum that transcends the somewhat mundane parts. Andrew Blum, author of Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet, said the following in an interview with Terry Gross:

The Internet is absolutely made of tubes. What else could it be made of? It’s many other things — these protocols and languages and machines and a whole set of fantastically complex layers and layers of computing power that feeds the Internet every day. But if you think of the world in physical terms, and you’re trying to be as reductive as possible and try to understand what this is, there’s no way around it — these are tubes. And from the very first moment, from the basement of a building in Milwaukee to Facebook’s high-tech, brand-new data center, and along the ceiling and the walls, are these steel conduits. But I know a tube when I see one.

A couple of days ago, Wired published a piece by Steven Levy about Google’s data centers. Levy was one of the first non-essential Google staff to visit the center, and his report is pretty astonishing. Google’s built a lot of their own infrastructure in an attempt to meet two important standards — speed and energy efficiency.

All of these innovations helped Google achieve unprecedented energy savings. The standard measurement of data center efficiency is called power usage effectiveness, or PUE. A perfect number is 1.0, meaning all the power drawn by the facility is put to use. Experts considered 2.0—indicating half the power is wasted—to be a reasonable number for a data center. Google was getting an unprecedented 1.2.

For years Google didn’t share what it was up to. “Our core advantage really was a massive computer network, more massive than probably anyone else’s in the world,” says Jim Reese, who helped set up the company’s servers. “We realized that it might not be in our best interest to let our competitors know.”

Make no mistake, though: The green that motivates Google involves presidential portraiture. “Of course we love to save energy,” Hölzle says. “But take something like Gmail. We would lose a fair amount of money on Gmail if we did our data centers and servers the conventional way. Because of our efficiency, we can make the cost small enough that we can give it away for free.”

thanks to Charlotte K. for sharing Levy’s article + the photos

52tiger.net: Brief history of the iPad: Prologue

Dave Caolo has decided to tackle the ‘history’ of the iPad, including its mechanical and intellectual forebearers (he goes all the way back to 1888, amazingly). Seems like an interesting and clever undertaking and one motivated by some startling facts:

Today the iPad is so popular that it’s easy to overlook that it’s only three years old. Apple has updated it just twice. Here’s a little perspective to reinforce the iPad’s tender age:

  • When J. K. Rowling published Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, there was no iPad.

  • When President Barak Obama was inaugurated as America’s 44th president, there was no iPad.

  • In 2004 when the Boston Red Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino and won the World Series for the first time in 86 years, there was no iPad. Nor did it exist three years later, when they won the championship again.

Hard to imagine that the device is only three years old. At least in the US, it has become something of an iconic, cultural touchstone.

Read Dave’s piece and check back for updates as he moves us through the development of iPad.

Michael Lopp / Rands in Repose: "The future is invented by the people who don't give a shit about the past."

Your success is delicious. Others look at your success and think, “Well, duh, it’s so obvious what they did there - anyone can do that” and, frustratingly so, they’re right. Your success has given others a blueprint for what success looks like, and while, yes, the devil’s in the details, you have performed a lot of initial legwork for your competition in the process of becoming successful.

More bad news via metaphors. Your enticing success has your competition chasing you, and that means that, by definition, that they need to run harder and faster than you so they can catch up. Yes, many potential competitors are going to bungle the execution and vanish before they pose a legitimate threat but there’s a chance someone will catch up, and when they do, what’s their velocity? Faster than yours.

Shit.

The reward for winning is the perception that you’ve won. In your celebration of your awesomeness, you are no longer focused on the finish line, you now lack a clear next goal, and while you sit there comfortably monetizing eyeballs, you’re becoming strategically dull. You’ve forgotten that someone is coming to eat you and if you want until you can see them coming, you’re too late.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

via Daring Fireball.

Relative Expense of Retina Macbook Pro

Most of the reviews on the web note how much more expensive the new Retina Macbook Pro is relative to the newly-upgraded ‘standard’ MBPs. Thought I’d do a little comparison to see how things shake out when we look at equivalently configured machines, considering the entry-level Retina MBP as our baseline.

Caveat: It doesn’t seem necessarily reasonable to compare the two base models — they’re different machines (same processor, but different storage technologies/ capacities and different amounts of ram, etc). But to hell with it.

2.3GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz

8GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 2x4GB (+$100)

256GB Solid State Drive (+$500)

SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)

MacBook Pro 15-inch Hi-Res Antiglare Widescreen Display (+$100)

Moshi Mini DP to HDMI Adapter with Audio Support (+$34.95)

Total Price: $2,533.95

Now, let’s adjust the Retina MBP into an equivalent configuration.

2.3GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz

8GB 1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM

256GB Flash Storage

Apple USB SuperDrive (+$79)

Backlit Keyboard (English) & User’s Guide

Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter (+$29)

Total Price: $2,307.00

Of course, this also isn’t really fair. The addition of the SSD on the standard MBP bumps the price up significantly and reduces the storage capacity from the default configuration.

Going in the other direction — increasing the “flash” capacity of the Retina MBP to 768GB on the higher end model to match the HDD capacity of the standard model (750GB) — adds a hefty $500, pushing the total cost upwards of $3400. In that case, the standard model comes out looking like the winner (but without a Retina display and solid state storage).

NYT Magazine: 32 Innovations that Will Change Your Tomorrow

Mixed feeling about this article — entirely Western-focused. Looks bad in the context of solving bigger global problem through innovation. In NYTs defense, though, they do title the article with “your tomorrow” which points toward their base, who probably aren’t as concerned with water, sanitation, household energy, and other blights of the bottom billion.

All that aside, this bit is really nice and broadly applicable.

We tend to rewrite the histories of technological innovation, making myths about a guy who had a great idea that changed the world. In reality, though, innovation isn’t the goal; it’s everything that gets you there. It’s bad financial decisions and blueprints for machines that weren’t built until decades later. It’s the important leaps forward that synthesize lots of ideas, and it’s the belly-up failures that teach us what not to do.

When we ignore how innovation actually works, we make it hard to see what’s happening right in front of us today. If you don’t know that the incandescent light was a failure before it was a success, it’s easy to write off some modern energy innovations — like solar panels — because they haven’t hit the big time fast enough.

Worse, the fairy-tale view of history implies that innovation has an end. It doesn’t. What we want and what we need keeps changing. The incandescent light was a 19th-century failure and a 20th- century success. Now it’s a failure again, edged out by new technologies, like LEDs, that were, themselves, failures for many years.

That’s what this issue is about: all the little failures, trivialities and not-quite-solved mysteries that make the successes possible. This is what innovation looks like. It’s messy, and it’s awesome.

Via kottke.org.

Jason Snell / Macworld: Tim Cook at All Things D

Jason Snell did an amazing job covering Tim Cook’s interview with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher at this year’s All Things D conference. My favorite bits from Tim are below - secretive on products, opening up on all the other important stuff.

Tim: We’re going to double down on secrecy on products. I’m serious. However, there’s going to be other things where we’re going to be the most transparent company on the world. Like social change. Supplier responsibility. What we’re doing for the environment. We think that transparency is important in these areas, and if we are, other people will copy us.

In the past we did an annual report and that was our method of transparency. Did we do more than others? I think most people would say yes. Our actions were clearly much more. But our communication was once per year. Now we’re putting out monthly reports. We want everyone to know what we’re doing, and we hope people copy us.

Kara: Assess the China situation. You have many critics, not just fictional ones.

Tim: We decided over a decade ago that there were things we could do better than anyone else, and those things we could do ourselves. And other things, other people could do those better than we can… manufacturing was one of those. The operational expertise and engineering and supply chain mgt, Apple does all of that. But manufacturing, we said, you know, other people can do that as well as we can.

Walt: Is that still true?

Tim: I think it’s still true. We went through a lot of effort in taking overtime down. It’s hard, it’s complex. Some people want to work a lot. Some people want to work a whole lot because they want to move and work for a year or two and bring back as much money as they can to their village. We took a position to say we want to bring this down. We’re measuring working hours for 700,000 people. I don’t know who else is doing this. And we’re reporting it. It’s almost like the labor report that the U.S. puts out.

Walt: There’s been a lot of attention in the last month to revival of manufacturing in the US, WSJ today had a piece about wages in US being relatively attractive. You used to have factories in the US. Do you ever see the possibility? You’re a huge company, the most influential company in tech. One of the most in any industry. Will there be an Apple product ever made in the US?

Tim: I want there to be. This isn’t well known, but the engine for the iPhone and the iPad are built in the US, not just for the US but the world. The glass for your iPhone is made in a plant in Kentucky, not just for the US but other markets outside the US. so I think there are things that can be done in the US, not just for the US, but exported for the world

People focus on the final assembly, because that’s the part where people look at it and say that’s an iPhone, they don’t think of all the parts underneath that add significant value. So on assembly, could it be done in the US? I hope so some day. The tool and die maker skill in the US began to go down in the 60s and 70s. How many tool and die makers do you know now? We couldn’t fill a room. In China you’d need several cities.

So there has to be a fundamental change in the education system, to bring back some of this. But there are things that we can do. The semiconductor industry is fantastic in the US. The Corning deal with glass in Kentucky, this is fantastic. So we will do as many of these as we can do.

And we will use the whole of our influence [so] that we can do it.

Bloomberg Tech Blog: "Now Can We Start Talking About the Real Foxconn?"

Tim Culpan, on 20 March :

There are also things happening at Foxconn that just aren't sexy to talk about: the cheap accommodation and subsidized food for workers, the Foxconn-run health centers right on campus, the salary that's well above the government minimum and other companies, the continuous stream of young workers who still want to work there.

The problem with Mike Daisey's lies is that they've painted a picture of the Evil Empire, a place devoid of any happiness or humanity. A dark, Dickensian scene of horror and tears. They also make anyone who tries to tell a fuller, more balanced account look like an Apple or Foxconn apologist because your mind is already full of the "knowledge" of how bad it is there.

To the public, a story about a 19-year-old shrugging her shoulders and claiming work is not so bad just can't stand up against a 12-year-old working the iPad factory lines. The naïve and youthful smile of a kid having found his first girlfriend at a Foxconn work party pales in comparison to a crippled old man holding an iPad for the first time. Compared to the lies, the truth just doesn't make good theater.

And again, on 23 March:

If one of the most ardent and well-versed groups in the whole labor debate struggles to put a finger on exactly what the standards are for good employment practices, then there's little hope that the rest of the industry's stakeholders can reach a conclusion, let alone actually achieve it.

Some things are clear. Worker deaths are bad. Underage labor, with such ages clearly defined, is also bad. A safe, clean, healthy work environment is good. Social welfare such as health-care and pensions, also good. Student internships are a grey area while that ultimate desire of all workers - a decent living wage - hasn't exactly been solved in the West. So far neither local laws nor industry self-regulation have succeeded in turning these principles into rules the industry will comply with. Meanwhile, neither camp has done anything to compare conditions at Apple suppliers with the rest of the industry, the country, or the rest of the world.

His second set of points hit the nail on the head. We know what's good and bad -- but we don't know how to contextualize what we know about Apple and Foxconn in the larger global picture. More importantly, we're not clear how to move forward. So, yes, we can all acknowledge there's a problem and something needs to be done. But until there are clear standards and actionable, realistic, mutually agreed upon steps forward, the caustic, circuitous discourse will continue.

Mike Daisey: "It's not journalism. It's theater."

Ira Glass, showing again why he's among the best journalists in America today:

I have difficult news. We've learned that Mike Daisey's story about Apple in China - which we broadcast in January - contained significant fabrications. We're retracting the story because we can't vouch for its truth. This is not a story we commissioned. It was an excerpt of Mike Daisey's acclaimed one-man show "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," in which he talks about visiting a factory in China that makes iPhones and other Apple products.

The China correspondent for the public radio show Marketplace tracked down the interpreter that Daisey hired when he visited Shenzhen China. The interpreter disputed much of what Daisey has been saying on stage and on our show. On this week's episode of This American Life, we will devote the entire hour to detailing the errors in "Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory."

Daisey lied to me and to This American Life producer Brian Reed during the fact checking we did on the story, before it was broadcast. That doesn't excuse the fact that we never should've put this on the air. In the end, this was our mistake.

We're horrified to have let something like this onto public radio. Many dedicated reporters and editors - our friends and colleagues - have worked for years to build the reputation for accuracy and integrity that the journalism on public radio enjoys. It's trusted by so many people for good reason. Our program adheres to the same journalistic standards as the other national shows, and in this case, we did not live up to those standards.

Friends and loved ones encouraged me to see Daisey's show and listen closely. They pointed to my like of Apple products. I read about it, thought about it, and tried to balance it with the picture of conditions that Apple (and now others) puts out about their industrial hygiene and environmental practices. It didn't all fit, but I made room for it.

Today, then, the shocker -- This American Life is retracting the previous show and dedicating an hour to setting the record straight. Who does this in this day and age? Who makes a public pronouncement of their own fallibility and goes out of their way to correct it in an ethical way that respects their audience?

I'd argue very few do this. Corrections are relegated to the dusty interior pages of print papers and magazines and hidden from online viewers, for the most part, in the nether regions of websites. NPR may be the exception (as a slight aside, their ethics portal clearly and nicely lays out their stance on a number of things, including retractions, social media, and the like).

Looking forward to hearing the show and continuing to support This American Life's breed of ethical, conscientious, and respectful journalism.

One amendment: I doubt working conditions are perfect in Apple's contractor's factories in China and elsewhere. We know that efforts are being taken to improve them. We know that Apple is beginning to be more transparent about what goes on and is working with independent auditors to get some more precise data about working conditions. And we know they have a long way to go to true transparency.

Industrial hygiene and environmental audits of this type are difficult -- they're heavily biased because they are scheduled visits, often with predetermined and specific objectives. What Daisey's conflation of theatre and journalism does, though, is undermine legitimate reports of working conditions. Exaggeration for theatre may be fine, but the maniacal press tour -- with his descriptions of specific chemical exposures, guards with guns, underage workers, etc passed off as fact -- doesn't work. No one will argue that conditions should improve - but for them to improve, we need a true understanding of baseline conditions, actionable interventions to make the situation healthier, and regular reporting to understand how the situation is changing.

Backblaze, External Drives, & Obfuscation

FOUND: Advanced Mac Help for Online Backup -- addresses specifically the Spotlight issue and how to force Backblaze to rescan for external drives.

I love Backblaze. It has worked well for me for the past few years; some recent changes in their version 2.0 product have made it even better.

One thing that's always annoyed me, though, is how long it takes Backblaze to recognize an external drive. This morning, it was nearly instantaneous; last night, the drive sat hooked up but didn't start backing up. No idea why. Plugging and unplugging the drive didn't work. Restarting didn't work. Nothing I did made Backblaze recognize the drive.

I decided to consult their support page on external drives this morning. It had the following outstanding gem (emphasis added):

When an external drive is plugged back in, it may take Backblaze a minute or two hours to schedule the files on the external drive to be backed up online.

A minute or TWO HOURS?

My other complaint is with how external drives are handled for people who travel. Again, from the same page above:

If the drive is detached for more than 30 days, Backblaze interprets this as data that has been permanently deleted and securely deletes the copy from the Backblaze datacenter. The 30 day countdown is only for drives that have been unplugged.

If you are going on vacation for a long time, you can shut down your computer with the external drive attached. Backblaze does not detect that the external drive has been unplugged and won't start the 30-day countdown. You can then leave your computer off and unplug your external drive for six months, and Backblaze will still keep all your files backed up including those on your external drive. When you come back from vacation, make sure to plug your external drive back in 30 days from after you turn your computer on.

I travel a fair amount for my doctoral research -- and increasingly to India, Nepal, and Guatemala. On occasion, I'm gone for well over a month. My options, seemingly, are to lose my online backup (of all my photos, video, and data) or leave my computer off while gone. Neither are satisfactory.

I can understand the decisions they have made -- they don't want to host terabytes of people's data without need; they're not additional storage capacity for people -- but, for me, this makes things difficult and annoying. My primary machine is a 2011 MacBook Air. It is simply not possible to take all my files with me; I've got a few hundred gigabytes of photography and documentary work backed up to multiple locations in my apartment, but I'd love to have them somewhere offsite and presumably safer. I could purchase a small portable drive and take it everywhere, but that seems unnecessary and no more secure (could lose the drive, drop the drive, etc).

A final niggle -- MDSworker and MDS go nuts on the /Library/Backblaze directory. It needs to be manually added to the "Prevent Spotlight from searching these locations" pane in System Preferences. Seems like this could be automated during the install / first run process.

I'm not switching services -- I don't think there's a better alternative (and yes, I've tried Crashplan -- it caused Java to kick my MBA fans into overdrive all the time, which drove me nuts, and was less reliable). I love Backblaze's native app. Their tech support has been helpful and responsive. Their web interface is snappy, their storage boxes are amazing, and they seem committed to offering a great experience.

All that said, I think the three issues above could be fixed. Two are seemingly related to their software. The final one could be resolved with a tiered pay plan with an additional option that costs more -- but is a bit more flexible and doesn't delete external volumes after 30 days of inactivity.

Jony Ive on Design at Apple

An interview with the London Evening Standard.

What is more difficult is when you are intrigued by an opportunity. That, I think, really exercises the skills of a designer. It's not a problem you're aware of, nobody has articulated a need. But you start asking questions: what if we do this, combine it with that, would that be useful? This creates opportunities that could replace entire categories of device rather than tactically responding to an individual problem. That's the real challenge and very exciting.

Our goal is to create simple objects, objects that you can't imagine any other way. Get it right and you become closer and more focused on the object. For instance, the iPhoto app we created for the new iPad completely consumes you and you forget you are using an iPad.

In my opinion, this is what sets Apple apart. The design has evolved to a point that the product nearly melts away. The hardware that creates the experience has been reduced to the bare minimum. Apple makes the trick seems simple - but, in fact, it is next to impossible. Vision, iteration, and refinement - repeated over and over - has yielded the most intuitive and best technology products we've ever seen.

Ignoring the Megapixel Race

Mark III

Thought I should revise my previous post on this beastly camera, which was addle-brained and pointless.

Some points of interest: the camera only adds 1 megapixel to the count of its predecessor. This sets a good precedent that is arguably happening across the dSLR industry -- a move away from MPs as the ultimate benchmark of performance and a focus on the fundamental quality of the image. This move also offers a clear contrast with Nikon, Canon's biggest competitor in this space, who is pursuing a different strategy with their product lines.

The camera also finally offers 50 and 60 frames-per-second video capability, albeit at a reduced resolution of 720p. This feature has been available on a number of lower-end Canon cameras for quite some time; its a nice / needed upgrade here.

Lastly, the price has been upgraded. $3500 at Amazon. Assume it will come down with time - but that's a lot of money.

Camera Labs sums up the reason photographers and gadget-geeks are excited pretty nicely:

The headline specifications are a new 22.3 Megapixel full-frame sensor with 100-25600 ISO sensitivity (expandable to 102,400 ISO), 1080p video at 24, 25 or 30fps and 720p at 50 or 60fps, a 61-point AF system (with 41 cross-type sensors), 6fps continuous shooting, a viewfinder with 100% coverage, 3.2in screen with 1040k resolution, 63-zone iCFL metering, three, five or seven frame bracketing, a new three-frame HDR mode, microphone and headphone jacks and twin memory card slots, one for Compact Flash, the other for SD; the control layout has also been adjusted and the build slightly improved. So while the resolution and video specs remain similar to its predecessor, the continuous shooting speed, AF system, viewfinder, screen and build are all improved, and again there's the bonus of twin card slots.

Sample shots and videos are available at the following: Canon Japan and dpreview.com (and their preview).

And unto thee, the white hand of god delivers iPad 2

File it away as possibly incorrect, but I'm guessing that later in the Fall of this year, Apple will drop the 2 from the iPad name and release iPad HD or iPad pro or iPad SOMETHING, marking the first split in this product line. I don't think they'll go iPad 3 -- after all, they declared 2011 the year of the iPad 2.

Update: CLAIM CHOWDAH! WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! We're already at iPad (4th generation).

If you don't like what is being said, then change the conversation.

Want.

Most of you who know me know I like photography, cameras, gadgets, whirlygigs, gizmos, etc. Fuji's about to release or announce or something this marvelous looking beast, which [prima facie] seems to combine retro styling and controls with some digital goodness.

I'm sure every hipster on the planet will want one. Count me in as part of that list. More info here and here.

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