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.)

Intense.





Leica M Edition 60


Leica:

Reduced to only the essential camera features, the Leica M Edition 60 is the first digital camera to concentrate exclusively on the bare functions required for digital photography – shutter speed, aperture, focusing and ISO sensitivity. This is also the reason for the replacement of the camera’s display with an ISO selector dial. For reasons of quality, exposures are saved as raw data in DNG format. Working with the Leica M Edition 60 intentionally demands the same care and attention as working with an analogue model. Only the sensor and the entire electronics reflect the state of the art of contemporary camera technology.

Digital technology. Analogue experience.





Apple Pay: Bumpy Ride Ahead Thanks To TouchID


The NFC chip in the iPhone 6 is restricted to Apple Pay (source: Cult of Mac). Not surprising. The year-old fingerprint recognition technology called TouchID is used for only two things: iPhone 5s unlock and iTunes purchases. With the iPhone 6 you get to do one more: Apple Pay purchases.

This is how Apple rolls: limit the scope and get to perfect as close as possible. But even after a year, Apple is not close enough to perfect with TouchID: TouchID is still far from a hundred percent in recognizing my fingerprints. Every time TouchID fails the frustration of using my iPhone grows.

Apple needs to realize each failed attempt at using Apple Pay will result in a more severe frustration. Every time Apple Pay fails it will be frustrating, of course, but because you will experience the failure in public where people are waiting and watching an Apple Pay fail will also be humiliating.

A perfect Apple Pay experience is dependent on many variables and some of them are beyond the control of Apple, but I can predict with certainty Apple Pay will not always be a smooth experience, because of the less-than-perfect fingerprint recognition performance of TouchID.





Apple: Sneaky iPhone 6 Photos


Where is the iPhone 6 camera bulge? The above image is from Apple’s main page for the iPhone 6, but there are many other profile images of the iPhone 6 on Apple.com where the camera bulge is hidden.





Apple, U2, and Songs Of Innocence


At the end of the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch unveiling event, Apple pushed U2’s new album Songs of Innocence to 500 million folks who have accounts on iTunes. Here are some reactions to what Apple and U2 did:

Bob Lefsetz:

This looked like nothing so much as what it was, old farts using their connections to shove material down the throats of those who don’t want it. It’s what we hate so much about today’s environment, rich people who think they know better and [are] entitled to their behavior.

Sasha Frere-Jones, The New Yorker:

Don’t shove your music into people’s homes. A U2 album that some would have taken seriously was instead turned into an album that seems as pointless as it probably is. Lack of consent is not the future.

Lewis Wallace, Cult of Mac:

But trotting out aging Irish rockers after you’ve wowed the world with the first glimpse of the glorious Apple Watch? That’s not thinking different. That’s a pity-fuck for a band that’s lost its edge, and an unfortunate bum note for a company that’s rarely perceived as tone-deaf.

Perhaps it is not the company that is tone-deaf. Here are some reactions to Songs of Innocence:

Alexis Petridis, The Guardian:

Nevertheless, Songs of Innocence isn’t a bad album as such. The only person who’d agree with Cook’s suggestion that The Miracle (of Joey Ramone) amounts to “the most incredible single you’ve ever heard” is someone who hasn’t heard many singles.

Steven Hyden, Grantland:

Songs of Innocence isn’t a bad album, exactly, but it’s among U2’s bottom five records. […] It justifies its own existence, but just barely.

Tom Breihan, Stereogum:

For all that, Songs Of Innocence isn’t an out-and-out disaster. The album has good moments, if you’re ready to dig for them.

Lindsay Zoladz, Vulture:

[…] Songs of Innocence is an argument for the album-as-background-noise, or maybe just the album-as-accessory-to-technology, the forgettable prize drowning in the much-more-desired Crackerjacks.

I have not listened to Songs of Innocence, and I do not plan to. I have tried a few times to download the free songs I have been gifted by Apple but have not been able to; maybe that is a blessing in disguise. If you want to remove the songs from your iTunes music library and purchases this Apple support page shows you how.

U2 lost me at Zooropa, but I still enjoy listening to songs from Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum. I am certain there are some who are enjoying the new and free album from U2, but from where I am sitting it seems the giveaway and the music they gave away were both lukewarm.





MNML for WWF






Panasonic Lumix CM1: Android Smartphone with 1-inch 20MP Image Sensor & Leica Lens


The Verge: I have a Sony RX100 and it takes great photos for a pocketable camera. I bought the RX100 because the photo quality coming out of my iPhone 5s wasn’t good enough. The RX100 sports a 20MP 1-inch Exmor CMOS image sensor mated to a Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* f/1.8 lens.

The Panasonic CM1 also features a 20MP 1-inch image sensor, but the Leica lens is significantly slower at f/2.8. Even the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have faster f/2.2 lenses. The CM1 — unlike regular smartphones — has a mechanical shutter and a manual control ring, like the RX100. Like other smartphones, the CM1 has a display (4.7 inches and 1920×1080 pixels) and runs an operating system (Android 4.4).

I’ve long desired a smartphone like the CM1: a full-blown camera fused into a smartphone. I don’t think the CM1 is that camera-smartphone hybrid of my dreams (that would be an iPhone 5s + RX100), but I think — like the Nokia Lumia 1020 — it’s a glimpse of where smartphones are going, but without the huge bulge.





iPhone 6 & 6 Plus: Pre-Orders


Apple:

Apple today announced a record number of first day pre-orders of iPhone® 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, the biggest advancements in iPhone history, with over four million in the first 24 hours. Demand for the new iPhones exceeds the initial pre-order supply and while a significant amount will be delivered to customers beginning on Friday and throughout September, many iPhone pre-orders are scheduled to be delivered in October.

The biggest advancements in iPhone history. Really? Apple’s PR, just like Tim Cook, is excessively hyperbolic. Nonetheless the fact of the matter is there were a lot of people waiting for a larger, and new — as in not just a tweak of the previous iPhone design, like the iPhone 5s was to the iPhone 5 — iPhone.

Do you know what else demand for the new iPhones exceeded? Apple.com’s ability to process that demand.





Microsoft to Buy Minecraft For US$2.5 Billion


It’s official. Mojang:

As you might already know, Notch is the creator of Minecraft and the majority shareholder at Mojang. He’s decided that he doesn’t want the responsibility of owning a company of such global significance. Over the past few years he’s made attempts to work on smaller projects, but the pressure of owning Minecraft became too much for him to handle. The only option was to sell Mojang. He’ll continue to do cool stuff though. Don’t worry about that.

There are only a handful of potential buyers with the resources to grow Minecraft on a scale that it deserves. We’ve worked closely with Microsoft since 2012, and have been impressed by their continued dedication to our game and its development. We’re confident that Minecraft will continue to grow in an awesome way.

Markus Persson, known as Notch and maker of Minecraft, is leaving after Microsoft’s acquisition of Mojang is complete:

I’ve become a symbol. I don’t want to be a symbol, responsible for something huge that I don’t understand, that I don’t want to work on, that keeps coming back to me. I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter.

As soon as this deal is finalized, I will leave Mojang and go back to doing Ludum Dares and small web experiments.

[..]

I love you. All of you. Thank you for turning Minecraft into what it has become, but there are too many of you, and I can’t be responsible for something this big. In one sense, it belongs to Microsoft now. In a much bigger sense, it’s belonged to all of you for a long time, and that will never change.

It’s not about the money. It’s about my sanity.

Carl and Jakob are leaving too.





Samsung Galaxy Note 4: Review by Raymond Soneira


Raymond Soneira:

Based on our extensive Lab tests and measurements, the Galaxy Note 4 is the Best performing Smartphone display that we have ever tested. It matches or breaks new records in Smartphone display performance for: Highest Absolute Color Accuracy, Highest Screen Resolution, Infinite Contrast Ratio, Highest Peak Brightness, Highest Contrast Rating in Ambient Light, and the smallest Brightness Variation with Viewing Angle. Its Color Management capability provides multiple Color Gamuts – a major advantage that is not currently provided by any of the other leading Smartphones. The Galaxy Note 4 delivers uniformly consistent all around Top Tier display performance […]

An OLED display is the most color accurate display on a smartphone. Now that’s something; OLED has come a long way from the days of overly contrasty and over saturated colors.

The 5.7-inch OLED display sports a pixel format of 2560×1440 good for a resolution of 515 pixels per inch. Compare that to the just announced iPhone 6 Plus: 5.5 inches, 1920×1080, 401 ppi. The iPhone 6 Plus doesn’t even come close. It’s not about specs? Sure it is, especially when you can see the difference.

There’s a lot to like about the OLED display in the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. And that stylus is tempting too.





Swing Bin


An exquisitely simple trash can.





Tim Cook: “…making a better phone in every single way.”


Josh Lowensohn, The Verge:

“We could have done a larger iPhone years ago,” Cook told Charlie Rose in an interview that airs later today on PBS. “It’s never been about just making a larger phone … it’s been about making a better phone in every single way. And so we ship things when they’re ready, and we think that both the display technology here, the battery technology, but all — but everything else and the software.”

At least Steve Jobs made his BS believable. The iPhone 6 is a “better phone in every single way”? Let’s take a look.

HIDEOUS ANTENNA STRAPS. These antenna straps make the iPhone 6 look like toys. They are comical and clash against the rest of the design. Make the antenna straps less visible by using a color that is close to the color of the rest of the iPhone. A poor design choice.

BULGING CAMERA. If you lay the iPhone 6 down on its back, it doesn’t lay flat, because of the bulging camera. Simple rule for Apple when it comes to future iPhones: Don’t make the body so thin the camera needs to bulge out. In terms of function, optical image stabilization (OIS) is nice, but the lens is still at f/2.2. How about improving the lens to f/2.0 or f/1.8. How about improving the light gathering capabilities of the image sensor? You’ve had an entire year. Phase detection autofocus is fast yes, but contrast detection is more accurate. That’s why advanced camera systems use both. Phase detection also consumes more power.

POWER BUTTON. Apple moved the power button from the top of the iPhone to the upper right. Great. Millions upon millions of users have gotten used to the power button on top for many iPhone generations. Now they have to readjust to having the button somewhere else. The reason for the move? It’s easier to get to because the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are so big. It won’t be easier because no one is used to the power button being there. It’ll be harder for everyone. And even if we get used to the new location pressing the power button down is easier than pressing it in from the right to the left.

1920X1080. Apple finally caught up to the middle of the pack. Display technology? There are IPS LCDs with 2560×1440 (LG G3). There are OLEDs with 2560×1440 (Samsung Galaxy Note 4). Dual domain LCDs have been around for years. So have multi-domain LCDs. Full sRGB is nice. But how about getting rid of reflections and glare, reducing reflectance, and making the glass oleophobic/lipophobic? A sapphire cover glass might have been nice.

SIX MODELS. How about instead of having more LTE bands, we have just one model. Apple has six different iPhone 6 models. Here’s the list: A1549 (GSM), A1522 (GSM), A1549 (CDMA, A1522 (CDMA), A1586, A1524. A better iPhone would have all the bands in a single device so we won’t need to worry about whether our iPhones will work on different carriers. My friend Frank recently purchased a LG G3 and he showed me how he can switch between CDMA and GSM, by changing a setting. Now that’s a step in the right direction. Why can’t Apple do this — something that’s clearly better — instead of making a whole bunch of different iPhone models?

The iPhone 6 is better in every single way? Not even close. My advice to Tim Cook: stop exaggerating so much.





   
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