Monday, October 6, 2014

iPhone 6 Suckage

The iPhone 6 sucks and here's why.

  • you can no longer realistically use the phone with one hand. if you've always been a two-handed smartphone user, you'll probably be fine. however, if you, like me, struggled your way through the iPhone 5 body with one hand, longing for the iPhone 4 size the entire time, you'll find the iPhone 6 is finally just way to big to manage with one-hand.
  • it is so big you can no longer take a picture with one hand. you can't pull it out of your pocket, get it out of lock mode, and position it for picture taking; with one hand. one of the things I love about smartphones/cameras is the ability to take quick pics of something happening. that often means taking a pick when my other hand is doing something else. driving, holding my kids' hand, holding onto handlbars of a bike, holding my coffee, whatever. and don't bitch at me for multi-tasking or driving w/ my phone. everyone does it... you do too.
  • taking pictures with the volume-up button is really hard now because the sleep button is opposite the volume-up button. that means when you're trying to snap the pic, you wind up putting the phone in sleep mode.
  • adjusting the volume is really hard now because the the sleep button is opposite the volume buttons. that means when you're adjusting volume you inadvertently put the phone in sleep mode.
The camera itself is awesome, and the screen is gorgeous. Neither of those things matter though if you can't physically manage the device itself. I'm sure mine will shatter in the next couple of weeks as my phone-dropping frequency has shot way up.

Yes... I heavily use the double-tap-home-button kludge to try to drive the UI into one-hand mode. It can be helpful (crucial in some cases), but it doesn't address the major issues.

At some point I might write a post about all the crappy bugs in iOS 8 too. Steve... I miss you in so many ways.

I'm on a quest for a small form factor Android smartphone now. Bummed. I never thought I'd see the day.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Science on Screen: The Social Network

When the Dairy Center for the Arts asked me if I'd host one of the Science on Screen shows I was intrigued. Once I found out what it actually meant, I was ecstatic!

I've always had a penchant for dissecting the scientific aspects of a film production. From the "that's not possible" scenarios in movies, to subtle usage of a given technology in a film, we are constantly guided by what a filmmaker puts on screen; fiction or not.

The Science on Screen program brings together feature films, and people with scientific expertise to discuss scientific aspects of said films. The audience experiences a "behind the curtain" view of some of the science the filmmaker, intentionally or not, incorporated into movie.

The Sloan Foundation's has a broad goal to bring public understanding of technological and scientific understanding to all of us through film. In 2011, they partnered with the Coolidge Corner Theater 
to provide a grant program which supports independent cinemas across the US in bringing Science on Screen to their audiences.

I've recently been giving my right-brain more room to breathe, and I was excited to learn about some formalized energy around two of my favorite joys; science and film. I get to play the role of "expert" (hah!) on September 21, 2014 at the Boedecker Theater, in Boulder, CO. I'll be talking about the impact social networks are having in the context of "big data" in the computing/software arena prior to a screening of The Social Network.

The Social Network is one of my favorite movies (and not just because Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross did the incredible musical score). It does a beautiful job exploring the innate sociology that drives most of humanity, and the conveyance of that into the online world. That sociology results in billions of human expressions every day. Capturing, and conveying, those expressions to all of us users is a monumental software and hardware challenge. I'll be covering some aspects of that challenge.

I hope you join us. You can buy tickets here.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Awesome session with my therapist the other day. It's always the simple things that carry the most weight and have the most impact.

"Is your life on purpose?"

I didn't ask whether or not what you're doing has purpose, or whether or not you're living with purpose (both important, but different, questions). Is your life on purpose?

Is who you are, and what you're doing, the result of purposeful and deliberate and conscious thought and consideration, or are you just floating on some track or executing against some template? Every waking moment of our lives might not be clearly defined and conscious (that'd be exhausting), but I realized today that often I can slip into a space of just coasting along some path I may, or may not, have deliberately set in motion a long time ago.

That can lead to winding up in a place of living a life that is not something you did on purpose. You're certainly responsible for all of your actions, but your reality today, and tomorrow, might not be as closely tied to what you'd actually like to be doing.

Make sure what you're up to today, right now, is the result of something you decided to do "on purpose."

Of course, by the end of the session we were messing with the question "what is the purpose of life." ;)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sony Alpha 7 (A7) Review

ISO 50, 24mm, f5.6, 1/30'
I've spent a week shooting with the full-frame Sony Alpha 7. I spent a few months with the Panasonic GX-7, but wound up shelving it (the UI was a hard-to-use mess, and the sensor isn't full-frame (something I realized I couldn't give up)).

Overall I'm really impressed with the Sony. I bought it thinking it would be a more day-to-day camera that I could more easily sling over my shoulder instead of a full weight/size DSLR (I have the Canon EOS 6D for that). I'm starting to think it might become my full-use camera however. I need to spend more time with it before knowing if it can fully displace my 6D though. No matter how things fare with the Sony, I'm not sure I'm going to be able to give up the analog/optical viewfinder of a true SLR. Time will tell.

I have a non-trivial investment in Canon lenses, so I've been using the Metabones lens adapter which allows me to use them on the Sony. Having two completely different sets of lenses feels a tad excessive.

  • Size. It's a smaller and lighter full-frame camera.
  • The dial controls for adjusting aperture and shutter speed are solid, consistent, and well placed.
  • Amazingly sharp exposures and overall exposure quality is fantastic! Great color and depth.
  • Focus peaking when in manual focus mode is super cool.
  • Battery life.
  • ISO 50. I'm a huge fan of super low ISO levels, so being able to go down to 50 has been fun.
  • Monitor display. High quality and pivots around really well.
  • Bracketing. I do a lot of landscape photography and bracketing is my standard method of taking exposures. While the Sony supports a few methods for HDR/Bracketing, it lacks a critical feature. The A7 doesn't take the successive exposures automatically with a single shutter-button press. Instead, you have to hold the button down with your finger while the exposures are captured. That means the exposures are highly likely to be shaken while you're holding the button down, and also that you have to sit there with your finger on the button while they're being taken. That can be awhile if you're doing really long exposures. I'm hopeful that they resolve this through a firmware update as I don't see any reason they can't support the single-press-to-multiple-exposures approach Canon has taken. A few blog posts have suggested that Canon remains the gold standard for bracketing support. This is an odd misfire in functionality by Sony. So easy to get this right, it's odd they got it wrong.
  • Angular body. The body has some strong angles and corners on it which means it can uncomfortably dig into you while thrown over your shoulder with the strap.
  • The metering light is so close to your finger on the grip that you have to be careful not to interfere with it when shooting.
  • The lens mount on the body has some play in it so even when lenses are locked in place, they can twist ever so slightly. It's not a big deal, but it doesn't feel as tight as the 6D.
  • The strap mounts interfere with your grip when you're holding the camera; an odd design oversight.
  • The iOS control app is pretty lame.
For now, I'm toting the A7 around with me all the time; it's a great camera. I'm going to see if using a wired remote to trigger the shutter for bracketing solves my issues with how it shoots HDR. If I can resolve the bracketing stuff, then the only thing standing between me and using the A7 as my full-use camera will be the fact that it actually is mirror-less. Not being able to see the analog light coming through a viewfinder is tough; I find myself wanting to see what I'm shooting.