Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

iPhone Photography

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

So I’ve had my iPhone 4 for a year or so now, and I’m really impressed with the camera capabilities. In reasonably strong light conditions the quality is excellent.  However, uploading photos from the iPhone to the web is not so great, especially with the MobileMe gallery being retired next year.

I’ve virtually given up with Flickr and all my photo hosting for the website is with SmugMug, an excellent photo hosting service. Unfortunately, the SmugMug iPhone app is a bit poor, and I prefer to get all my photos into Aperture, tweak/crop/straighten as required then upload. This means uploading “live” is only a temporary action, where I remove the photos to be replaced with an improved selection later.  This does however leave a lack of capability for photoblogging.

Enter Instagram: An app that allows photos to be uploaded directly from the iPhone to their webservice. This site runs on WordPress and there are some plugins that allow the most recent Instagrams to be displayed in the sidebar, and also a collection of instagrams to be shown on a page or post. But that’s just be beginning.

Instagram is intended as a simple service, so pictures are 600 pixels square, no big problem there as it’s ideal for web display. But what Instagram adds are simple on/off filters to give photos a vintage, low-fidelity or saturated look. It’s really easy to use and creates some nice effects with virtually no effort. These photos are all iPhone/Instagram only:

Beyond Instagram I found a whole selection of apps to make photo editing on the iPhone and iPad fun and with good features. Free apps like Pixlromatic and iSplash Pro, as demonstrated by the aeroplane picture, and Phonto to add text and Squaready to create a square canvas for rectangular pictures as seen on the RX8 image. (These photos were not taken with the iPhone 4, only edited on it)

A very good value application called FX Photo Studio has much more comprehensive filtering and framing and when combined with Instagram for upload and display means it’s easy to while away a few hours playing at photo editing on the go. Of note is the fact FX Photo Studio is not limited to Instagram 600px images, but seems to be able to support up to 2500px images – it’s therefore one of the best value photo editing apps I’ve ever bought.

But pure Instagram is great too: A single photo taken last night by the iPhone 4 (the best camera in the world is the camera you always have with you) and uploaded immediately with Instagram. Taking and sharing pictures is what photography is all about.

Mobile Data

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

It’s been a few months since Catherine got the iPhone and I’ve still not changed my opinion that it’s a pretty poor phone. The ringer is too quiet and lack of ring profiles a real pain.

However the mobile web browsing is very good, and there are some good apps available. So, for my birthday Catherine got me an iPod Touch 64Gb. The iPod Touch is essentially an iPhone without cellular data, gps, or camera. I’m not fussed about the camera, but the GPS would have been nice. I understand the iPhone uses an integrated Cell/WiFi/GPS chipset so that probably explains the absense.

One immediate problem I didn’t expect is that disk mode is no longer available meaning I can’t use the device as a backup for my Aperture data – so a 32Gb device would have been more suitable. However it’s unlikely I’ll run out of storage space before the battery dies. I’ve got over 6000 photos and all my music and still have 50Gb free.

Happily I can share purchased apps with Catherine too so the apps I bought for her iPhone will work on my iPod.

So it turns out I’m happy with the iPod, and this post was written on the WordPress App!

The email issues with the iPhone are mostly resolved as gmail now supports push mail, it’s not reliable yet but it’s getting there. I do wish it showed the number of new messages somewhere on the lock screen though.

The last no-go problem with the iPhone is the fact that Manx Telecom don’t offer a UK data roaming bolt on like they do with the Blackberry. Not getting email is an inconvenience, but not getting up to date weather data for flying or skiing is a big deal. The data can be used in the UK but costs are excessive.

The UK cell network “Three” now offer a wireless 3G dongle called the MiFi that would allow all my wireless devices including the Blackberry, iPod, Netbook and iPhone to use a shared data connection, and it’s available on pay as you go. Hopefully once the cost drops a bit it will be an ideal solution for trips to the UK. A portable WiFi access point has really interesting potential.

Maybe there will be a new iPhone software version fixing the other issues before my Blackberry contract finishes in December 2010, but then maybe the Palm Pre will be a better phone….

(sore thumbs)


Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Catherine got an iPhone 3G on Saturday to replace her Blackberry Curve. Had it been me, I would have returned it on Sunday…

The media features are, as you would expect from an iPod derivative, excellent. Music and Videos can be selected easily using the touch screen and the screen itself is excellent once you’ve accepted the fingerprints as inevitable.

That’s where the positives end I’m afraid.

As a mobile phone, and mobile email device, the Blackberry is vastly superior to the iPhone. For example, to make a call to Catherine on the Blackberry I take the phone out of the cover (automatically unlocking the keyboard), then press and hold C and the speeddial happens. With the iPhone, remove from case, manually unlock, click on Phone, Click on Favourites, Click on Catherine.

It’s worse if I have to dial a number or choose from the contacts. With the Blackberry I can just start typing from the home screen, the Blackberry will automatically display a list of matching names, and will also present the potential number to dial should any of they keys pressed also be number buttons. For example, if I push the D/5 button, then E/2, then R/3 it will offer to dial 523 and present a list of all names with DER in them. I just choose what I want from this list and it dials. The iPhone doesn’t have this ability so I have to go into Phone, then either choose keypad, contacts, favourites, recent, then on contacts I’ve got to scroll through the list.  It’s totally backwards compared to the elegant simplicity of the Blackberry. Single handed operation of the iPhone may be possible with some practice, but it’s still harder to use than the Blackberry.

Email is very poor too on the iPhone. No push email from Gmail, and no way of seeing if a message has been recieved without unlocking the phone. The Blackberry has a flashing alert light. The iPhone can try and recieve emails once every 15 minutes, but after having near instant Blackberry email, this seems like a backwards step, and also appears to eat the battery.

One other immediate weakness came to light, and that is the iPhone has no apparent support for ring profiles. My Blackberry has profiles for Quiet, Normal, Phone Only (no email alerts, just sms and phone calls), Off and Vibrate.  The iPhone has none of this, just a ring / don’t ring option.

I leave my phone on overnight by my bedside incase any our systems at work have a failure (we have automatic SMS notification), but by using “Phone Only” profile, the automatic emails from my bank, and the occasional spam message don’t give an audio alert.  To change profile in the Blackberry is a single click, to accomplish the same thing on the iPhone only acheivable through the settings menu.

I’m sure the iPhone is as good a device as is possible without a keyboard. It is certainly much better than the Windows Mobile smartphones, but the problem is a mobile phone needs a keyboard, and if it’s a full qwerty keyboard, so much the better.

I should point out I do actually like Apple products. We have had three OS X computers and I think OS X is a fantastic operating system. Aperture 2 is one program I probably couldn’t do without now. Some of the apps for the iPhone look really good too.

I just really wish the iPhone was better at being a phone.

New Toys & Courier Problems

Monday, October 6th, 2008

Catherine has recently started her photography college course. The course is entirely black and white, no digital allowed, so I dusted off the old Zenit EM of 1980 vintage. Not convinced by “it’s the lens that matters” arguments, it was decided she should get a more modern camera. There was no point in getting another cheap SLR, as once the college course finishes, she’ll either keep using it, or I’ll get it! So 1 used EOS-3 complete with power booster was ordered from Adorama in New York. A great bargain for $360 including shipping. Even once the VAT was paid, that’s still a bargain, as the power booster still sells new for over £250.

The VAT was a bit of a surprise on a second hand item – something to do with free circulation in the EU.

However, UPS calculated the VAT on £360, rather than $360! The courier wouldn’t give us the package without handing over the cheque either, so that’s me down about £30 thanks to mistakes by UPS and lack of customer care skills by Manx Independent Carriers (Update 20/10/2008: See Below!). I’m still waiting for the cheque from UPS with the refund too – Funny how that works… Anyway, assuming I do get the money back, it’s a bargain.

I also got a battery grip for the EOS-450D after seeing how it improved the handling of the EOS-3. Price matched from Jessops it was within 10% of the cost from Amazon, and that’s within my “get it now” allowance. Now I’m all set for G-BOAC in Manchester and G-BOAE in Barbados next week, but that’s another story.

And finally, last weekend I went on the Yellow Duckmarine in Liverpool! I’m particularly happy about capturing this image on the Blackberry!

Yellow Duckmarine

Yellow Duckmarine

Update 20/10/2008

Why did I say “lack of customer care skills by Manx Independent Carriers”? Well, this morning I had a call from one of the directors of M.I.C. to ask this question, after he had found this post on the internet. The fact he called was a big plus to Manx Independent, as I don’t publish my email addess or mobile number on the site. I was actually quite pleased he’d taken the time to track me down and discuss this issue with me.

The root of the issue was the fact I was presented with a choice that, in essense was: pay up or you don’t get your parcel. For the record, I fully accept the fault originated at UPS and M.I.C. were only operating under UPS instructions. When I ordered the package, I estimated costs based on with and without VAT, but the actual cash on delivery value required was so high I was absolutely convinced there was a mistake. The problem was the driver did not have time to call UPS (or to wait for me to call UPS). In real terms the £30 difference was insignificant compared to the 40 mile round trip to pick up the parcel from the depot later, so I paid the money.

However, I was left thinking that if I was in the UK, and a UPS driver turned up at the door with exactly the same issue, he may have been able to contact UPS directly and resolve the issue there and then.

The M.I.C. director did say he would look at providing the drivers with a contact number for UPS, and hopefully this would have prevented this particular issue straight away. When I called UPS, I was speaking to their operator for about 90 seconds before the problem (VAT calculated on £360, rather than $360) was identified. Rather than simply have me write a cheque for the correct amount and keep everybody happy (well, almost. VAT on secondhand goods still seems a bit unfair!), I’ve got to wait another few weeks for UK customs and excise to return the funds to UPS, then another few weeks for them to send a cheque to me. I’m fairly sure the brokerage fee from UPS won’t cover the admin costs for this one anyway,

So what of Manx Independent Carriers. Well, they took the time to A) check on their reputation on the internet. B) track down how to contact me. C) give me a call to discuss the matter. and finally D) investigate a solution to prevent this from happening again. That actually seems like pretty good customer service after all!

Blackberry Test Post

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

This is a test post using the Blackberry Curve. The camera image is emailed to Flickr, which then posts the message and image directly to my site. If this works it should be much better than the previous solution that hacked wordpress to accept Nokia Lifeblog uploads.