VISION AFORETHOUGHT

Common sense analysis of this, that and the other

TechTips

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Here I’m re-introducing TechTips this weather confused Sunday 11 October 2009.

Phones

iPhone 4

Wait until September 2010 when a new revision will be released with a fix for the antenna issue. Yes, it’s real. I tried holding one in my left hand in a 3 store and the signal strength indicator fell from 5 bars to 1 or 2 within about 30 seconds. How do I know there will be a fix in September? Because the free bumper case offer from Apple expires then!

Android

The best phone as of August 2010 is the HTC Desire, followed by the Samsung Galaxy S (if you don’t mind lack of a camera flash) and the tiny but well designed Sony Mini series.

Digital photography

As you will know by now, megapixels do not count, at least, not on devices without matching ‘glass’, circuitry and sensors. I still carry around a Sony Ericsson K800i camera phone. Images created by this 3MP device are hard to tell from those taken by a dedicated camera when reproduced at the same resolution. This is because back when this phone was developed, the market could afford to pay more and SE used top quality components throughout. If you see a K800i, compare the size of the lens to that on more recent phones.

Did you know?

  • 17MP is the minimum resolution that a camera equipped with a good lens needs to be in order to match that of 35mm film.
  • Due to some dystopian decision making by the EEC or is it the EEU?, digital cameras imported into Europe are hit with a tax linked to the continuous recording time of their video recording capabilities. Therefore, if you want to record video for an extended period – such as a full football or hockey game, buy your camera abroad!

General tips

  • Take a memory card to your friendly camera store, insert it into each camera you try out, take several test shots inside and outside – and then view the images on your computer or laptop at full size.
  • Although some Panasonic models lack this, opt for a camera with a dedicated Playback button [>]. This means you can touch the shutter release to put the camera back into shoot mode without having to slide a switch or twirl a dial.

Camera phones

The best still and video images I have seen come from from the Samsung Toco ULTRA Touch – I owned one for a short while, only giving it up as it would not sync with my Mac. The biggest problem with cameras phones is the startup speed, making spur of the moment shots impossible. However, as processors get faster in smart phones, this will be less of a problem.

Compact digicams

The best all rounder in the world is without any doubt, the Panasonic TZ7 (or ZS3 as it is known in the USA). You can research why using Google and YouTube. If you are street shooter, again, Panasonic are the leaders with the LX3. Most Sony compacts produce excellent images, but are fairly pricy. Samsung are very innovative, but lack the lens pedigree of the other brands. Canon appear to soften up their images to make them more consumer friendly, so I avoid them – preferring a camera that outputs what I see, not what the camera wants me to see. Whilst this is a matter of opinion, I also find their human factors questionable. On the other hand, the popular Pentax Optio range are the snappiest and easiest to use compact cameras out there. Sadly, Pentax lack the marketing might of Canon, so are hard to find in the high street.

Prosumer cameras

Again, Panasonic are at the top with the amazing GH1. It not only features a very versatile zoom lens, but can shoot top quality HD video (1080p – that’s very very detailed!) and excellent still images. The flip out LCD allows you to get creative too, as I did with my since stolen Sony F717 that featured a clever rotating body.

DSLRs

As you will discover if you visit the forums on popular photography blogs, such as DPReview.com, some people become fairly aggressive defending their brand of choice. Don’t. Choose what is best at the time of purchase. However, having spent a lot of time playing with and owning cameras, I believe Nikon DSLRs offer the best dynamic range and image quality of any brand – in particular in low light conditions. I would find it hard to choose between a D300 (with HD video) and the Panasonic GH1. The GH1 is a Micro 4/3rds camera so by default will be unable to match the IQ (image quality) of a regular DSLR when pushed to the limit though. I owned a Pentax K10D, choosing it based on its excellent ergonomics, something that the well reviewed new Pentax K7 also benefits from. For professional sports photography, Canon are the leaders, however the Nikon D3x is playing catchup nicely.

Computers

This industry, like the telecoms, is still in a mess. One spends more time managing ones computer than using it to perform tasks. With a notepad, the productivity to struggle ratio is 99:1, and that 1 is when your pencil breaks or you run out of paper – something that is unlikely to happen because you can spot such an event in advance and buy replacements ahead of time due to the naturally intuitive physical nature of the medium.

Solutions are what computing is about. You purchase your machine to carry out tasks. If you are able to accertain that the device you desire can achieve what you want with minimal cost and hassle, go for it. Sounds obvious, because it is.

From my perspective, there is no usable computing solution out there today. (October 2009.) And that is why I founded my company.

Cloud computing

As recent events with Google/Gmail and Danger/Microsoft have proven, this concept (that I conceived of in 1981 in a college project), has not yet matured. There are fundamental reasons for this:

  1. Poor design due process. So far, most cloud computing solutions are a hodge podge of ‘bought in’ services, without a visionary ensuring everything works as it should. (It is such leadership that is why most recent Apple products are so reliable when it comes to their day to day operation. When did your iPhone last crash to such an extent you lost your work? It doesn’t because Stevie and the App Store people are, like Nintendo, doing their best to ensure a smooth customer experience.)
  2. Slow wireless connections. The wireless Internet is STILL not consistently fast enough to obtain the same speed and responsiveness with a cloud based application as a desktop version. (Google gears does not appear to work on my Mac so I cannot text and therefore comment on it within the WordPress environment.) I use Google docs a lot and it breaks as soon as my Vodafone 3G USB dongle connection drops to sub 3G speed. And even at 3G, it’s not really fast enough.
  3. Lack of robust industry standards with which to build future proof solutions. Consider Flash VS HTML 5. (I’m with HTML 5 until Flash is optomised and properly adopted as a world standard by the W3C etc.)

Mac or PC?

The advent of the cloud computing model means that for some applications, which OS you choose will become less important. The browser is what will count. You can buy a cheap but fast Windows XP PC, hook it up to a huge monitor, install Firefox (and essential plugins) and have a great web machine. Or you can buy a 24″ iMac. The benefit of the latter is that it is superbly engineered and includes some top quality pre-cloud computing productivity software from Apple in the form of iLife and iWorks. (Actually, you have to pay for iWorks I believe, but it’s a lot less expensive than MS Office.) With a PC, you are going to save money, but probably need to invest more to obtain the same quality as that offered by Apple. However, Apple cannot rest on their laurals – the new 24″ VAIO Windows 7 equipped touch screen PC from Sony is competitively priced considering it’s excellent design and specification. I had expected Apple to launch a touch screen iMac in time for the Christmas 2009 shopping season, but imagine they are a) Perfecting their tablet device. b) Waiting to get a touch optimised version of OS X ‘right’ before letting a finger itchy public get their hands on it!

Misc

I could put these in the On section of this blog, but will leave here for now.

Android from Google

All though well conceived (ideologically), the lack of consistency of Android powered devices could be an achilles heal. If you swap phones often, you don’t want to be learning all over again. And developers will prefer write once, run anywhere workflow.

Update, 2nd August 2010: With Google rolling out the Froyo update to as many devices as possible, the consistency issue will slowly fade, although performance will always differ between devices.

OK, no more time to write for now.

Ask me questions via Twitter if you like! @oflife

END

Written by Oflife

October 11, 2009 at 5:35 pm

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