Larry Ellison: Steps Down as CEO of Oracle

Carolyn Said, San Francisco Chronicle:

Larry Ellison, a Silicon Valley pioneer known as one of its most flamboyant and aggressive leaders, stepped down as CEO of Oracle Corp. on Thursday but will remain its executive chairman and chief technology officer, the Redwood City company said.

Google: Encryption Standard on Next Android

Craig Timberg, The Washington Post:

Android has offered optional encryption on some devices since 2011, but security experts say few users have known how to turn on the feature. Now Google is designing the activation procedures for new Android devices so that encryption happens automatically; only somebody who enters a device’s password will be able to see the pictures, videos and communications stored on those smartphones.

How about pictures, videos, and communication stored at Google?

“I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee”

iPhone 6 Plus: Camera Review by Austin Mann


A thousand words…

iOS 8: iPhone 4s

Farhad Manjoo, The New York Times:

What are the costs of upgrading? Performance. Ars Technica installed iOS 8 on the iPhone 4S and the iPad 2, and in both cases it found that apps opened up slightly more slowly under the new OS. It took about 2 seconds instead of 1 to open up Safari on a 4S running iOS 8 rather than 7.

The iPhone 4s was released in October, 2011. That is four years ago, which for a high-tech device such as a smartphone is a very long time. That the latest mobile operating system from Apple works on something that old is remarkable.

Yesterday I updated my iPhone 4s to iOS 8, and yes there is a negative impact to performance. Not surprising. But what is surprising is that my iPhone 4s is more than usable. Even though my iPhone 4s runs a little slower iOS 8 is worth the update, especially because of improved security.

Technics R1 Series


Samsung Galaxy Alpha & Hornettek Vader

The Samsung Galaxy Alpha reminds me of the Hornettek Vader aluminum metal case I reviewed a while back. The corners…

Moto X (2nd Gen, 2014): Review by AnandTech

Joshua Ho, AnandTech:

While AMOLED has traditionally struggled with luminance in situations such as the web browser and light-themed applications, Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and S5 LTE-A Broadband have shown that it’s possible to achieve levels of brightness approaching some of the brightest RGB-stripe LCDs. As the brightness of the Lumia 930 is about equal to the new Moto X, I suspect we’re looking at the Galaxy S4/Note 3 generation of panels.

The Moto X (2nd Gen, 2014) posted a max brightness of 242 nits on SpectraCal CalMAN 5. Quite low.

Contrast is still incredible, but I can still see the purple smearing effect that comes from unlit to lit pixels.

Not good.

We see that the display is just a bit too red, and that most of the luminance is coming from red and green.

Display lifetime and battery life were more important than color accuracy.

There’s really not much that the Moto X can accurately display in sRGB as just by pushing the gamut too far, even if there wasn’t saturation compression for some colors, the large gamut will cause distortion of all colors within the gamut triangle.


Amazon Kindle Voyage: Review by The Verge

Dieter Bohn, The Verge:

The Voyage is thinner, lighter, and ever-so-slightly smaller than the Paperwhite, but the big deal is the screen. Amazon has increased the resolution so that it reaches 300 pixels per inch, which makes text incredibly sharp and readable. I ratcheted the text size all the way down to the lowest setting and found it to still be crisp and sharp enough to read. At a more reasonable font setting, it’s the best reading experience I’ve seen on an electronic device.

Avid readers, this is your e-reader.

Tim Cook: Thoughts on Privacy

Tim Cook:

Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t “monetize” the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple.

A one-two punch at Google and Facebook.

Finally, I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.

Never is a long time, but sounds good. Just to be clear: “less than 0.00385% of customers had data disclosed due to government information requests.” This is from Apple. Assuming what Tim Cook said is true, it is technically true. No backdoors. No access to servers. But Apple has worked with government agencies to disclose customer data. Apple also received national security-related requests, less than 250 in the first six months of 2014.

On devices running iOS 8, your personal data such as photos, messages (including attachments), email, contacts, call history, iTunes content, notes, and reminders is placed under the protection of your passcode. Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data. So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.

So make sure to establish a passcode. The only way Apple can disclose customer data to government requests is via iCloud.

Amazon Kindle Voyage

Amazon: The Kindle Voyage sports a 16-level grayscale 6-inch display with a resolution of 300 ppi. Here are the main features Amazon is touting:

If you are an avid reader, there is no better display to read on than E Ink. With a backlight that lights up the text (and not your face), page turning that keeps your fingers where they are, and a 300-ppi display the Kindle Voyage seems to be the best e-reader money can buy. Priced at US$199 for the WiFi only version with Special Offers (ads).

Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 (2014)

Amazon: The Fire HDX 8.9 sports an 8.9-inch LCD with a pixel format of 2560×1600 and a resolution of 339 ppi. By the way, those specs are better than those of the retina iPad mini. No, specs are not everything but when you consider the starting price of US$379 with 16GB of storage, and one year of Prime worth $99, the value proposition cannot be easily dismissed. One more feature to consider: Mayday, which is a free service that connects you to a live customer support person 24x7x365.

Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition

Amazon: The Fire HD Kids Edition comes in two — 6 and 7 inches — display sizes and comes with a two-year guarantee. If the kids break it Amazon will replace it for free. The case looks pretty tough. The 6-inch version is priced at US$149 and the 7-inch version is $189.

Amazon Fire HD 6

Amazon: The Kindle Fire HD 6 sports a 6-inch 1280×800 IPS LCD, good for a resolution of 252 ppi. Not the greatest, far from, but the 8GB version is only US$99 with Special Offers (ads). You also get Prime, a $99 value.

iOS 8

As of September 17, 2014 (today) iOS 8 is available. A couple of caveats:

iPhone 6: Review by David Pierce

David Pierce, The Verge:

Yet there’s nothing truly ambitious here, no grand vision of the future or of a new way of living in the present. Apple doesn’t have better ideas about how to make use of more display real estate, or how to help users navigate a bigger device. It’s not on the precipice of offering a new kind of do-it-all computer, as it might be with the iPhone 6 Plus. The latest iPhones could have been a chance for Apple to really re-examine what smartphone hardware should be, but Apple just built a bigger iPhone. Because that’s what people wanted.

For a variety of reasons, from the camera to the app ecosystem to the hardware itself, the iPhone 6 is one of the best smartphones on the market. Maybe even the best. But it’s still an iPhone. The same thing Apple’s been making for seven years. A fantastically good iPhone, but an iPhone through and through.

Steve Jobs, June 14, 2005, Stanford:

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Apple is not as hungry nor as foolish as before, or as it should be.

iPhone 6 Plus: Review by Nilay Patel

Nilay Patel, The Verge:

The 6 Plus has an absolutely stunning display. It’s a 5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 panel, which works out to 401 pixels per inch. That’s the highest-density display Apple’s ever shipped, but there’s a whole range of Android phones out there with big and great-looking high-density screens: the 5.1-inch Samsung Galaxy S5 at 432ppi, the 5-inch HTC One M8 at 441ppi, the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 4 at 515ppi, and the 5.5-inch LG G3 at an insane 538ppi.

Of course, it’s debateable whether your eyes can even perceive any of these higher pixel densities, and driving all those extra dots takes a toll on battery life. Apple seems to have aimed firmly at the middle ground with the iPhone 6 Plus: it’s a great-looking display that’s plenty sharp, but it’s not so crazy high-res in the service of specs that it needs a bigger battery to keep it lit up all day.

Middle ground, is accurate. The ability to visually perceive high pixel densities is debatable, too. And so I debate: I am over 40 and I can tell the difference, but my wife — who knows a thing or two about eyes — tells me I have unusually sensitive eyes.

The iPhone 6 Plus camera is the best smartphone camera I’ve ever used. Apple’s holding firm at 8 megapixels while everyone else is racing to put ever-bigger numbers on spec sheets, and it feels like the right decision: the iPhone 6 Plus focuses faster, works better in low light, and generally produces the best photos I’ve ever seen from a phone.

The 6 Plus has the same basic shooter as the iPhone 6, but it adds optical image stabilization to the mix, which improves low-light performance even more. It’s not going to help you when you’re shooting anything that moves, like people, but for sunsets and skylines, it’s clutch. It basically lets the camera hold the shutter open a little bit longer than it otherwise could without causing a blurry image, so more light hits the sensor. If you’re like me and you mostly find yourself taking photos at dusk and in dark rooms, you’ll end up with many more usable shots. Until you take too many shots and everything gets blurry regardless.

Funny. Optical image stabilization (OIS) paired with phase detection autofocus should be really fun to use. I hope autofocus accuracy is just as good as the non-phase detection autofocusing iPhone 5s.

Having two portable devices — an iPhone and an iPad — is getting tiring. Two devices to carry around, two devices to charge, two cables, two plugs, two devices to update, etc. I would like to have just one, and that is what makes the gigantic iPhone 6 Plus tempting.

If I do get the iPad Nano there will be something I will do that I have not done since the original iPhone: buy a case and keep it on. Why? Two things. The butt ugly antenna lines and the protruding camera lens.

iPhone 6 “iPad Nano”: Review by David Pogue

David Pogue:

The screens are terrific. The smaller iPhone 6’s screen has 1334 × 750 pixels (326 dots per inch), and the Plus’s screen is 1920 × 1080 pixels (401 dpi), which is full high definition. Other phones have more dots or smaller ones, but at this point, everybody is just chasing unicorns; these screens have long since exceeded the ability of our eyes to distinguish pixels.

David, it is pixels per inch (ppi). And nope, folks who know a lot about eyes say our eyes can distinguish pixels at far denser resolutions than 300 ppi. But you are right, those of us who are over 40 will most likely not be able to tell the resolution difference between the 401-ppi iPhone 6 Plus and the 538-ppi LG G3.

There’s now ultra-smooth, ultra-slow motion video (see the watermelon-smashing test in my video, above). There’s phase-detection autofocusing, which compares incoming light from two pixels for fast, precise focusing — or quick, smooth refocusing while recording video (hallelujah!).

The Plus model has optical image stabilization – the lens jiggles in precise motion to counteract the handheld movement of the phone itself – that works supremely well.

Phase detection autofocus is used by most DSLRs precisely because of how fast it can autofocus. However, the slower contrast detection autofocus is more accurate. Some advanced cameras use both. I understand why Apple focused on speed: iPhones have not had problems with accurate focusing, but they have had problems with focus speeds. No more with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Real time autofocusing while recording video is a feature a lot of us will enjoy using.

Watson Analytics by IBM

Steve Lohr, The New York Times:

IBM has shown an early working version of Watson Analytics to a handful of customers and industry analysts, letting them try it out, and they are generally impressed. It combines basics of data handling with the Watson technologies of natural-language processing and machine learning. A result, they say, is that a business person, who is not a statistician or data scientist, can type in questions to probe corporate data. Examples: “What high-value customers am I most likely to close sales with in the next 30 days?” and “Which benefits drive employee retention the most?”

Looking forward to the day Siri and Watson start to date.

Tony Fadell: Glock, The Verb

Original image source: Fortune, by Bryce Duffy

Austin Carr, Co.Design:

Fadell pushed his team, much as he did at Apple. His reputation is for being intense, willing to go to war with Steve Jobs and his lieutenants over the development of the first-generation iPod and iPhone, and hard on his own troops. “The kiss of death at any of these product meetings — what would send Tony over the fucking moon — was when he went around the table asking how things are going, and you said, ‘Great!’” recalls one former Apple team member. “Tony would just lose his shit, because things are never going great.” (When one employee failed to live up to his standards, Fadell ordered a manager to fire the employee, saying, “You gotta Glock Glock that dude,” as he mimed shooting off a handgun. He was joking, but unapologetic.)


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