Wednesday
Oct052011

Where the iPhone 4S sample pictures were taken

Apple has posted a series of sample pictures taken with the iPhone 4S (select "View the gallery"). Interestingly, and perhaps in an attempt to prove that they have not been modified in any way, they left all the EXIF data in, including a geotag on 5 of the photos. Two were taken in Yosemite National Park (8/24 for the squirrel, 8/25 for the mountain), and two in the Santa Rosa area (8/29 for the wave, 8/30 for the balloon).

The last one was a bit of a surprise, though: the picture of the garden shed (for lack of a better term) was taken 8/30 in Germany, near Dresden. I wonder if an Apple employee took an iPhone 4S on vacation there - it seems pretty far to send someone to take sample shots with the camera.

The rest of the photos (the ones with the flowers) sadly have no GPS data.

 

 Google Map available here

 

Sunday
Oct022011

I can't imagine why MiniDisc never caught on...

I was given a MiniDisc with some recorded content a little while ago. Since I've been wanting to transfer that content to my Mac, I recently bought a MiniDisc player with a USB port off eBay. Turns out that Sony, in what I can only assume was their desire to kill the standard, decided it would be a good idea to only let you copy to a MiniDisc from a computer, not from it to a computer. I ended up having to play the audio through the headphone jack into the line in port on my Mac.

Oh, and the SonicStage software that's required to interface with the MiniDisc player is Windows-only, so I need to keep a Windows VM around just to talk to the player at all. It absolutely puzzles me why the format never caught on.

Sunday
Oct022011

My predictions for the October 4 event

I posted my predictions for the October 4 Apple event on the Ask Different Blog. It’s a bit rambly, but it touches on most of what I’m thinking. I’m prepared for most of it to be wrong though.

Tuesday
Feb152011

Thoughts on Android

I keep wanting to like Android. As a user of Google services (GMail, Google Calendar, Google Voice, etc), the idea of having a phone that tightly integrates with them is an appealing notion. In practice, however, the experience leaves much to be desired. Earlier today I found myself walking through the local Best Buy when I came across a Nexus S demo unit, and I took a few minutes to try it out.

My initial impression was one of disappointment - despite Google, Samsung, and many online reviews touting the speed of the device, switching between the home screens on the device was very rough, even when I turned off the live wallpaper. Unabated, I still wanted to test the Google service integration, so I signed in with my Google account and started a sync. When I fired up the GMail app, it said that the password for the default account was incorrect and no matter what I did I could not proceed any further until I entered the correct password (which I didn't have). Also, despite the account settings area indicating that the Google Calendar sync was complete, my entries were nowhere to be found. On the bright side, the contacts sync worked fine, but I was hoping to test more than looking up phone numbers.

After being disappointed with the rough interface and my inability to test the functionality of the GMail and Calendar apps, I decided to try and test out the camera, but once again the device had other plans:

Despite multiple attempts, I could not get the Camera application to launch.

Overall, I came away very disappointed in the Nexus S and Android. While I have no doubt that the interface is much smoother with a static wallpaper and no widgets, and that the GMail, Calendar, and Camera apps would very likely work if the device were rebooted and/or reset, it nevertheless made for a disappointing demo compared to the iPhone I later played with in the Apple Store.

Then there's also the larger issue of the Android platform. An iPhone 3G purchased in July 2008 is capable of running the latest version of iOS that came out in November 2010. By contrast, most brand-new Android phones ship with the older Froyo version and, as of now, cannot be upgraded. The reason behind the delay has been attributed to the heavy customizations to the interface that are done by the manufacturers, but even the Nexus One, sold directly by Google as recently as this past July, does not have an upgrade either. Once considered to be on the fast track for upgrades, the Nexus One has virtually been abandoned by Google.

Google should really take a page out of Apple's and Microsoft's books and start to exert tighter control over the platform, extend the time period in which devices get updated, lay down minimum specifications for hardware, and to redesign the UI to be smooth with no lag or stuttering and to be more visually appealing. If they can do that, they just might have a platform that some iPhone users will be tempted to switch to.

Thursday
Feb102011

Can iPhone wifi tethering completely replace built-in 3G for the iPad?

Ever since Verizon announced that their upcoming iPhone 4 would have the capability to act as a wifi hotspot, and since this functionality will in all likelihood be equally added to AT&T iPhones in the near future, I've gotten to thinking about whether built-in 3G is as much of a compelling upgrade for the iPad as it once was. Granted, the process is less seamless - the wifi hotspot needs to be enabled on the iPhone then connected to from the iPad, but unlike the iPhone it's not as though you're going to pull an iPad out of your pocket to quickly check something, so the startup time isn't as important. Also, assuming the price structure stays the same, AT&T charges $20/month extra for 2GB tethering in addition to the $25/month 2GB DataPro plan, which is $5/month less than the 2GB/month iPad data plan. Finally, it's possible to upgrade the iPad without having to pay for built-in 3G again.

However, there is one crucial omission preventing this from becoming the perfect solution: GPS. The 3G iPad, in addition to having access to AT&T's 3G network, also has a built-in GPS chip, something which its wifi-only brethren lack. So while the maps application is perfectly useable over tethering, it won't be able to pinpoint your location accurately; in lieu of a GPS chip, the iPad will attempt to pinpoint your location with nearby wifi networks, which works in densely populated areas but not in more remote areas or while driving.

This is a solvable problem, though, and not just by adding a GPS chip to the wifi iPad. In addition to providing a wifi hotspot, the iPhone could also provide a service on the network to allow connected devices to access location data. This may use even more of your already-taxed battery, but at least it would provide a complete solution.