Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Made on a Mac...

Long ago I started printing pictures in photobooks 'made on a Mac'. I composed such books within iPhoto, based on a number of standard templates that Apple kept improving from one iPhoto version to the next. Although results were reasonably acceptable, there was still much missing in the quality of the final print in terms of picture detail, depth, dynamic range and saturation. Same shots looked a lot better on prints done by any given 'photographic quality' inkjet printer that you could go buy today for under 100 bucks. Layout has of course always been Apple-like stylish, so, at least that was still cool.

In the meantime, I had 'discovered' Blurb via Flickr and Lulu via my 'pro' typographer sibling! I quickly adopted Blurb though, as I felt Lulu was far more sophisticated for the likes of me (ie. made for real professionals). Anyways, with Blurb, I was blown away in a heartbeat. Far less expensive than Apple, quite versatile, better print quality for sure, faster delivery times and more attractive range of dimensions (from smallest to largest). You could also send preview links of your 'creations' to friends and enemies, and in case you were a famous dude, your aficionados might also be tempted to sign up for copies online, by which way you might earn a buck or two (as for me, I haven't sold no shit yet, but who cares? Nobody's perfect!). Also, Blurb recently launched a brand new gig enabling total creative freedom by requiring designers to only send-in industry standard PDF versions of their books (something that pro's in Lulu did all along, btw). That, of course, presumed designers could master tools such as Adobe InDesign or equivalent... in order to prepare their books and export them in PDF.

Long story short, I recently ended-up reusing iPhoto for books once more. I've put my fingers on a beta Snow Leo seed, you see, and as expected, half of my apps refuse to work but crash instead. The Blurb book design facility is one of them. I'm too lazy to reverse back to Leo 1.5.whatever, so I had no other choice than using iPhoto again. Don't like Aperture much, so I prefer iPhoto for trivialities and Lightroom for descent work...

So, I was in Valencia recently where I shot some breathtaking buildings by Master Architect Santiago Calatrava, and I wanted to print a book with them pictures. I love architectural photography, especially of good looking modern buildings, ever since I shot towers downtown Houston on a Sunday back in July 1989, visiting my assistant and her family on a weekend. So what else to do then? Wait for the official Snowed Leo next September and Blurbians to realize they have a problem that needs fixing? No way, too late and I'd have lost my 'inspiration and drive' by then. So I went to use iPhoto instead!

Wow! What a quality print! Also there's a novelty vis-à-vis Blurb and the rest. Apple nowadays prints their hard covers on both, dust jackets and the hard covers themselves. Cover printing is brilliant, deep, dynamic, saturated, orgasmic! Book is relatively still (too) expensive for the number of pages involved, but probably worth every penny. Highly recommended. Free market is good. I'm sure the Apple folks have been watching Blurb and Lulu quite carefully all this time. And they haven't sat on their lazy ass but moved forward. That's pretty cool. That's the way it's gotta be. I love capitalism and free markets, dudes!

Would I go back to Blurb? You bet your b*tt! How about Apple then? Bet your partner's b*tt on this too! I love them both to my heart (Blurb and Apple, I mean, not your b*tts).

Click the shot shown above to view a short slide show of more of that Valencia book. Don't mind the show quality though. Those slides were done quick and dirty with my 2G unlocked and jailbroken iPhone... that figures... anyways, it's been all about the "proof of concept", so that's still fine.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pre vs iPhone

I found this article comment quite interesting... I'm sure you'll appreciate it too. BTW, John C Dvorak also said during a recent Cranky Geeks episode that the Pre's eventually gonna be a disastrous failure. Pity for Palm and their aficionados though. I kinda started liking Pre's GUI.

Ken Weaver @ Jun 17th 2009 6:17PM

I'm having trouble figuring out which phone to buy PALM PRE or IPHONE 3GS? Can anyone help me out here? As far as I can tell, it looks like this:

No multitasking
No Physical keyboard
No LED flash

8 GB memory limit
No true apps - only webapps (so weak)
No voice and data at the same time (because of Sprint CDMA network)
No voice dialing (WTF)
No video recording (WTF?)
No voice memos (WTF)
No movie rentals (over the air or otherwise)
No visual Voicemail
No TV show rentals
No audiobook purchasing
No true app store (18 is a joke)
No console-quality games (like Resident Evil, Metal Gear, 1000's of others for iPhone)
No Peer to Peer games
No VoiceOver (the iPhone can read any screen to you, just like a Mac)
No native in-car integration (iPhone has this with dozens of cars)
No podcasts
Crippled copy/paste (for example - you can't cut or copy a webpage or any part of it)
No universal search (crippled - no e-mail search)
Tiny keyboard (iPhone landscape and portrait keyboards are bigger than Pre's real keyboard)
No auto wi-fi login (just jumps on any open network and remembers them all)
No 7.2 Mbps network speed
No Remote Wipe
No Find My Phone feature
Can't function as a Remote for the household stereo (Great for parties, especially with the iTunes DJ feature where people can request songs)
Weak battery life
More expensive than iPhone
Very scratchable screen
No oleophobic protective screen
No real music store (Apple can break the compatibility at any time and I don't want to take that chance)
No Voice Commands (control music playing by saying "Depeche Mode" for example)
No Compass
No multiple and customizable home screens like iPhone (Pre only has one screen)
No Parental Controls
No Video Editing
No onboard Ringtone Creation
No 5 person conference calls
No Webclips

Anyone have anything to say about this? Can anyone honestly say the Pre has more features?

PS - the iPhone CAN multitask - you can listen to music, send e-mails, download files, AND surf the web at the same time. What you CANNOT do is have multiple 3rd party apps open at the same time - for example, I can't play Boggle AND Texas Holdem at the same time. And why would I? However, I CAN play Boggle, listen to my music, answer an email, download a PDF, etc. at the same time.

I would honestly like someone to list several dozen features the Pre has that the iPhone doesn't have. I guarantee no one will.

Fake Steve is back

Fake Steve is back. Since June 21st, about the time when the media leaked the story concerning El Jobso's liver transplant, Daniel Lyons, a.k.a. Fake Steve Jobs, re-emerged in his blog with some outstanding pieces, mainly inspired by the leak. Although not as aggressive as he used to be, Lyons remains largely entertaining and I hope, for the sake of the rest of us, past loyal readers of all of his postings and buyers of his Options book, that he continues to blog regularly again. One of the reasons is that he's always been well informed about events around the life of His Jobness (as he likes to call him) and he always knows to put the right hillarious spin on every story. Like the comments he made yesterday on the recent suggestion by the NYT that the whole liver tranplant story was possible because of potential violations of the law and rules of medical ethics... Listen what he sez...

"Whenever someone rich and famous receives a transplant, suspicions inevitably arise about whether that person managed to jump to the head of the waiting list and take an organ that might have saved the life of somebody just as desperate but less glamorous," they say -- only to assert, a paragraph later, that every doctor they talked to says there is no reason to cheat because these days anyone can pretty much sign up for a liver and get one.

There's no evidence suggesting I cheated. Nobody is quoted in the story saying I cheated. There's not a shred of anything in the actual story about that. I mean, yeah, as they point out, if you're rich and you own a jet you can sign up at different places and zoom in on short notice. And you can buy a big friggin mansion and just camp out waiting for some motorcyclist to go splat and leave a nice juicy set of fresh organs behind. So what? This is news? As I've said before, what is the friggin point of being obscenely rich if it doesn't gain you some advantages in life? Why would anyone want to be rich if you didn't get anything out of it? Duh, New York Times. Think about it. Anyway, they've got no proof that I did anything wrong -- in fact they've got no actual information about me at all, but nevertheless they can run a photo of me and a headline that says, "A Transplant That Is Raising Many Questions." Oh really? It's raising many questions? Where? From whom? I haven't heard any, except from the newsroom of the lame ass New York Times."

I may sound unethical in this paragraph, but, like Lyons sez, Apple is not just like any other company and certainly Steve Jobs is by far not your next door regular guy. He has changed our lives for ever with his products. He transformed an entire industry (or better said a number of them) to the better. He built entire eco-systems. If he gets treated medically 'better' than others, then the benefit is on the rest of us. If Jobs died today then the whole world would miss someone very special for ever. And, the world would miss major opportunities of 'breaking the mould' technology advancements that nobody else is capable of turning into real products for real people. So, it is understandable if Jobs received any preferential treatment at all. Which he didn't. Because the US is such a country where anyone celeb is treated less preferentially than any normal guy next door. They've got flocks of useless lawyers and good for nothing reporters who like to spread innuendos and break stories (like they are used to break wind) out of nowhere with only one objective: find their Warhol "15 minutes of fame". Any potential "abuse" by a celeb would then end up in a long series of reports and lawsuits and God knows what else. Tabloid papers (is the NYT one of them too? Apparently...) are starving about the possibility to point a finger to a celeb for having apparently behaved improperly. Lemme tell you what. If the Queen needed a transplant tomorrow, the UK secret service would go out and shoot someone to 'volunteer' him/her as a donor. And the entire nation would hail the 'volunteer' as a national hero that saved a 100 year old senile! C'm on folks, get a life!

Monday, June 22, 2009

The story of Twitter

Interesting illustration describing the story of Twitter, from seeding to this day, three years later. Click for sharper view. I borrowed this from this article. See how someone from the McCain camp needed a year and a half to realize that elections were won by people who use computers and not those who use guns and missiles. I'm sure John realizes that today... I am sure he does, check him out as @SenJohnMcCain. I'm pretty sure he's the real thing. Good ol' Mac... Way to go...

Opressing one's own family in the name of Allah

The world has been overwhelmed by the extent of the fraud scale in Iran by which the Ayatollahs have abused their position to bring that Ahmadi moron back to power. The professional media of the entire planet and all Internet social activity of the common man with a computer or smartphone are reporting non-stop the events in Tehran ever since the hubris and unseen arrogance of the reigning clerics hit the news about the 'undisputable' win of their clown! Is that Internet activity of any help? I believe so. The power of awareness by the masses is like an invisible force stronger than many tsunamis and earthquakes together. Only way possible to bring down oppressive regimes is from the inside. Iran is one of these regimes. Not many left around thank God, but those that are still around need the serious attention of the rest of the World.

Iranians are a folk of deep roots in the history of the world civilization. Persia and Messopotamia (modern Iran and Iraq) is where it all started for the Western World. They were far more advanced than the Ancient Greeks in the beginning of time (history). This culture is evident in the mind of modern Iranians if you come across any of them and spend a few minutes talking to them. I have personal experience from a number of my students who found their way to our European universities and after graduation they often do their very best to establish their future here and avoid going back and serve a regime of freakards. Ali is such a lovely soul that I have tried to help get a job recently... unfortunately, protectionist European authorities are not as easy to supply work permits to anyone nowadays and employers would use this as an alibi to refuse even opening a job application letter. On top of that, the recent image that Muslim extremists created for their religion in the West largely contributes to the negativity on behalf of commercial organizations rejecting job applications from folks of Middle Eastern origins. Add to that western popular TV series like Spooks and 24 and Bob's your uncle... I rest my case.

Coming back to the useless clerics of the Iranian regime, as I watch tens of footage clips, unedited, shot with mobile phones by demonstrating amateur filmers, I can't help not feeling a deep rage against the oppressors. I have always felt a natural disgust against all those who use religion to exercise power upon the liberties of the common man and woman in the street, regardless they are called the Pope, Patriarch, Ayatollah, Imam, Rabbi or whatever else. I always considered religions a pandemonium of symbols used by a few sly and 'gifted' representatives of 'God' to oppress the flocks of the commoners. Throughout history millions were sacrificed on the altar of some freaking religion. Nevertheless, the western world, in the last couple of hundred years, managed to segreggate religion from the State and to keep ambitious clerics into their churches and places of worship. And leave the rest of us get on with our lives.

Unforunately the Prophet, for reasons he only knew himself, dictated in the Muslim Holy Book that religion and state should be one and the same. Which leads us to the regimes of the Middle East today.

Nevertheless, the youth of Iran deserve better. This is the era of freedom where all people are actually born with equal opportunities everywhere. This is a new virtual world where bloggers and participants in the social phenomena of Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, Flickr and Youtube, are people of every race, color, social demographic, background and language. The question is though, can this community help globally overthrow bad regimes? I believe it can. Those regimes based their success in the past on the advantage of secrecy. Opressed and restricted the vocally resisting and the world forgot easily what the world did not hear.

Any of us (there are millions out there - many more than the actual followers of the Ayatollah regime) who are active on Internet should participate actively on the inititatives launched on Web 2.0 places. Visit Twitter.com and look at the most popular hashtags like #neda and #iranelection to see what I mean. We all owe this to the soul of Neda, the martyr who lost her life from a stray bullet of some 'security' guard or a Basji brainless moron. Her blood streaming out of her nose and mouth, her terrified eyes seeing the world in her last moments of life, the helpless cries of her father holding her tight to keep her from dying a useless death, will haunt me for ever. I am a father with a daughter her age and I feel the pain even more.

Common Iranians are good people, folks. It's their oppressive regime and those morons on top who need to disappear from the face of Iran. For ever... Join the movement!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

His Jobness changed his liver...

Well, if that is not hot news, what else is? We all wish him well! I hope it was Monkeyboy who donated his liver to him. That would solve both our problems...

Facts speak for themselves... the Flemish vs the rest of them Belgians!

During the last few days, this site has got abnormally high traffic due to a post about tethering and MMS on the iPhone 3.0. Click on the Google Analytics chart left for sharper view and draw your conclusions. Here are some ideas:
- The North of the country can read English.
- The North of the country owns more iPhones!
- The North of the country has got more money to spend on 500+ euro worth iPhones!
- The North of the country is more Internet and Google active than the South...

I could go on and on for hours... To those who have never heard of Belgium, well, no worries. Only remember: the North of the country is inhabited by the Flemish (Germanic origins), whereas the South by the Wallons (rather Celtic and Latin). BTW, I am neither of them... just a stupid Greek!

Anyways, the facts speak for themselves...

Proximus tethering for unlocked iPhones

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, although one could easily fix the MMS part of the iPhone 3.0 for Proximus users, the tethering part needed an IPCC configuration file that Apple only delivered for Mobistar and their other exclusive Mobile operators. Other local Belgian operators, like Mobile Vikings, a young and aggressive team using the Base Network (I think) with a lot of appeal to our Cyber Youth because of their attractive SMS and data plans, rushed to create their own bundles and put them out to their users right after the WWDC. However, we, unfortunate users of Proximus, had to wait for Her Highness to move... in vain.

Thank God, there's always a kid with some brains who's like: "Since I can get my fingers on one of them other IPCC bundles (say Mobistar's, for instance) and can check into its package contents, and change some key parameters with my grandma's plist editor, why do I need to wait, at all, for any of Belgacom's braindead morons, who're still busy enjoying their late dinner at their company's expense? I could fix this hands down... Not precisely rocket science subject matter, innit?" Right on the money! Thus, lucky us, a kid like that, going by the first name of Frank (cool, innit?) went out to do what I predicted, only a few hours later after my post launched into Cyberspace (unrelated of course). And it worked. He even configured the IPCC to fix MMS and tethering both at the same time, rendering my initial how-to-fix-MMS post obsolete. Kudos to Frank. Probably Belgacom should hire you for covering their ass and hubris*, and sparing them additional swearing from our side!

Although Frank's config file turned on tethering on the iPhone like a charm, without drawbacks and such, I had initially a slight tethering enablement hick-up on the MBPro side. It seemed to work fine at first sight, in network preferences, but there was no actual connection achieved. It also showed a peculiar description message under the connection name, referring to... Parallels. I decided to ignore the Automatic setting then and forced a new 'location' that I called 'tethering' (whatever) and as the system was being self-reconfigured, out of nowhere it suddenly seemed to work fine. It also worked regardless whether the iPhone was connected to the Internet via WiFi or 3G. If you ask me to recreate that fix, I'll be damned if I could. I wish I was techie enough to understand what happened and try to explain... but I ain't! I'd suggest, if that happened to you, disconnect the iPhone from your Mac, delete any iPhone connections present in your Network Preferences and start all over again. Apple boxes have this strange ability to self-fix themselves (heard that Monkeyboy?)

Anyways, I must say I am running a Snow beta and maybe that played a blame role too. On the other side, when I tried to make my desktop 24" iMac talk to the tethering enabled iPhone, also under Snow Leo, it all seemed to work out fine first time... Who knows what the deal was on the MacBook? Oh, the mysteries of OSX! Oh, the intricacies of His Jobness...

* I don't get it. They could have achieved some additional customer satisfaction (that they deadly need) and a few thousand extra hits reaching their miserable pages... but apparently, they don't seem to care. As it stands now, the keyword search on Google returns Frank's and my own blog pages on the top three pageranks. Belgacom and Proximus, nowhere to see... The lethargy that monopolies can get you into is apparently bottomless!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Kids, never try this @ home!

Just try reading this without laughing till you cry!!!

Pocket Taser Stun Gun, a great gift for the wife. A guy who purchased his lovely wife a pocket Taser for their anniversary submitted this:

Last weekend I saw something at Larry's Pistol & Pawn Shop that sparked my interest.. The occasion was our 15th anniversary and I was looking for a little something extra for my wife Julie. What I came across was a 100,000-volt, pocket/purse-sized taser. The effects of the taser were supposed to be short lived, with no long-term adverse affect on your assailant, allowing her adequate time to retreat to safety....??


Long story short, I bought the device and brought it home. I loaded two AAA batteries in the darn thing and pushed the button. Nothing! I was disappointed. I learned, however, that if I pushed the button AND pressed it against a metal surface at the same time; I'd get the blue arc of electricity darting back and forth between the prongs. AWESOME!!! Unfortunately, I have yet to explain to Julie what that burn spot is on the face of her microwave.

Okay, so I was home alone with this new toy, thinking to myself that it couldn't be all that bad with only two triple-A batteries, right? There I sat in my recliner, my cat Gracie looking on intently (trusting little soul) while I was reading the directions and thinking that I really needed to try this thing out on a flesh & blood moving target. I must admit I thought about zapping Gracie (for a fraction of a second) and thought better of it. She is such a sweet cat. But, if I was going to give this thing to my wife to protect herself against a mugger, I did want some assurance that it would work as advertised.

Am I wrong? So, there I sat in a pair of shorts and a tank top with my reading glasses perched delicately on the bridge of my nose, directions in one hand, and taser in another. The directions said that a one-second burst would shock and disorient your assailant; a two-second burst was supposed to cause muscle spasms and a major loss of bodily control; a three-second burst would purportedly make your assailant flop on the ground like a fish out of water. Any burst longer than three seconds would be wasting the batteries. All the while I'm looking at this little device measuring about 5' long, less than 3/4 inch in circumference; pretty cute really and (loaded with two itsy, bitsy triple-A batteries) thinking to myself, 'no possible way!'

What happened next is almost beyond description, but I'll do my best...? I'm sitting there alone, Gracie looking on with her head cocked to one side as to say, 'don't do it dipshit,' reasoning that a one second burst from such a tiny little ole thing couldn't hurt all that bad. I decided to give myself a one second burst just for heck of it. I touched the prongs to my naked thigh, pushed the button, and . . HOLY MOTHER OF GOD . . . WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION . .. . WHAT THE HELL!!!

I'm pretty sure Jessie Ventura ran in through the side door, picked me up in the recliner, then body slammed us both on the carpet, over and over and over again. I vaguely recall waking up on my side in the fetal position, with tears in my eyes, body soaking wet, both nipples on fire, testicles nowhere to be found, with my left arm tucked under my body in the oddest position, and tingling in my legs? The cat was making meowing sounds I had never heard before, clinging to a picture frame hanging above the fireplace, obviously in an attempt to avoid getting slammed by my body flopping all over the living room.

Note: If you ever feel compelled to 'mug' yourself with a taser, one note of caution: there is no such thing as a one second burst when you zap yourself! You will not let go of that thing until it is dislodged from your hand by a violent thrashing about on the floor. A three second burst would be considered conservative? SON-OF-A-BITCH, THAT HURT LIKE HELL!!! A minute or so later (I can't be sure, as time was a relative thing at that point), I collected my wits (what little I had left), sat up and surveyed the landscape. My bent reading glasses were on the mantel of the fireplace. The recliner was upside down and about 8 feet or so from where it originally was. My triceps, right thigh and both nipples were still twitching. My face felt like it had been shot up with Novocain, and my bottom lip weighed 88 lbs. I had no control over the drooling.

Apparently I shit myself, but was too numb to know for sure and my sense of smell was gone. I saw a faint smoke cloud above my head which I believe came from my hair. I'm still looking for my nuts and I'm offering a significant reward for their safe return!!

P. S. My wife loved the gift, and now regularly threatens me with it! 'If you think Education is difficult, try being stupid.'

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Valencia per favor...

I feel embarrassed to admit that I had barely heard of Valencia before... in honesty, all I knew about the city was that it is located south of Barcelona, some place midway the Spanish coastline, at the Mediterranean side of the Iberian Peninsula. That's all I knew! Cross my heart! Maybe, I have also reasonably inferred that it must have been a place of long and glorious history starting with the Romans, or perhaps some ancient colonial Greeks before them. No idea how large it was though and how unique. I mean, unique in the sense that I am pretty convinced now that I've been there, that you can't easily find some place else with a similar combination of old and new, traditional and modern in all colors of the rainbow, anywhere in the world. And all this portrayed in a scenery of blue of the most wonderful sea of all seas, the Mediterranean, the Mare Nostrum!

It made me feel proud again, having seen the beauty of Valencia, to know that I was also born in a country, on the other end of the same pond, Greece, and look and feel like one among these Mediterranean cousins, with similar looks, habits and behaviors, in so many ways. "The world is divided in two", said one Israeli customer once to me in Tel-Aviv... "Those who eat olives (us, Mediterranean folks) and those who don't". Yep, we ate plenty of olives and calamari and drunk wine made by Olympian Gods, here in Valencia, as we sat by the palm trees, a few yards from the breaking waves of the magic sea of our forefathers.

I arrived in Valencia and stayed here for three days and three nights to attend a rather heavy couple of days of (FP7) project reviews during multiple non-stop sessions at the City Polytechnic. Nevertheless, in the few hours left at the end of each day before dark, I took my courage and my compact point-'n-shoot Nikon P6000 under my arm and, sweating heavily under the late afternoon / early evening sun that still forced a pressing warmth upon us, I wondered around, alone or with my colleague Johan, to enjoy as much as my eyes could see and suck-in from such a wonderful place.

Having visited Barcelona a few times before and having seen the works of Gaudi, I thought I had seen all that was possible in the architectural vision of a human being. Until I came here to Valencia. Our hotel, Aqua 3/4 was located at the Alameda roundabout just right off the Calatrava bridge, connecting what was left of the two dried-up river banks. In less than 10 years, supported with funding from the budgets that feed regional development by the EC, the place was converted from a deserted area into a role model urban development project from the year... 3000 AD. La Ciudad de Las Artes y Las Sciencias! The eighth World wonder.

As a Greek, I'd even dare admit that you could eventually afford not having visited Acropolis or the Pyramids and still feel culturally fulfilled. You can't afford not visiting the Ciudad de Las Artes though and still maintain that you've seen what was possible in human architecture. We have all seen the Dubai ad campaigns on CNN about the extended city that was artificially built with Arab petrodollars. Fine... it looks impressive alright, but 'culturally' clashing with the local traditions and religious beliefs. You'd never expect to see what they did there in the middle of a desert. Too kitsch for my taste. However, despite the gazillions they spent, the result is nothing close to the Ciudad de Las Artes by any means.

Here, you find yourself in the middle of an area surrounded by divine and endless turquoise water pools out of which submerged controversial palau's are rising as present day Loch Ness monsters. In your mind's eye you see Wil Smith and his iRobot clones dancing on the white tile plateau to the rythm of a Leonhard Cohen song... You hear the music and your ears suck-in impatiently the first two lines of his lyrics :

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin,
Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in...

You feel like you've been dropped somehow into the seventh 'Myst' world, and your senses fake you into a state of nirvana where nothing in the world seems to surprise you anymore. I told friends that it felt like I would have easily believed it if suddenly a flying saucer landed next to me, as I was wondering around the Ciudad's walkways, and a bunch of 'Aliens' walked out. It felt so much like the stage of a George Lucas movie...

And all this was the result of the vision of one man. Santiago Calatrava. A pur sang son of the city! An architect for all seasons! The Gaudi of Valencia! Or, was it that Gaudi was the Calatrava of Barcelona? Like comparing Aristoteles with Plato, that is. What a genius! What a monstre sacré of endless creative architectural vision and engineering masterhood!

I eventually shot more than 500 photographs for sure, in just two evenings and an afternoon. I later (Photoshop)stitched many of them into panoramic views in a modest attempt to reproduce what I felt when capturing the moment itself. You can watch the resulting compilation by clicking here. Pardon me please for the myriad shots of the bridge... that was my personal favorite structure after all... a sample of intrinsic strength and power dressed-up in the divine feminine beauty of a giant Lyre instrument. I felt like photographing a beautiful woman over and over again, until I dropped!

I'm definitely coming back here! Sure thing!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

An idea for a new iPhone app.

I'm not an iPhone app developer by far, but I like watching UIkit developers code and do wonderful things. I'm also an Apple fan owning most of their products, from laptops to desktops and Power Macs, Airports and ATV and last but not least iPhones and iPod Touches. Yes, in plural...

As I was driving to Brussels yesterday noon, a cool song started playing on Radio 3. I knew the tune but had no idea what it was called. I wanted to own the darn song, so I launch Shazam in a heartbeat and tag the sound. Within seconds Shazam came back with the full coordinates of the song. Of course, I was driving at the moment, give and take 100km/hr, which is not at all my usual fast, but quite unsafe when reading tiny letters on an iPhone at the same time, not? Once I got the song name, I launch iTunes and search for the song. They didn't have the original track (it was Gymnopedie One by George Shearing) but had plenty of alternative covers. I'm sampling a few of them and decide to order the one I felt was the closest to the one on the radio. Driving with one hand and one eye on the traffic and my other hand four fingers holding the phone and thumb keying-in the iTunes Store account password, as my other eye is watching the screen (I feel like Martin Feldman) to conclude the transaction... (that was the hardest part). Within seconds a 6MB song file was on my iPhone (thanks much 3G) and via the aux input to my car stereo the song played a 'thousand' times until I reached my destination! Wow! And Wow again! Ten years ago this would have sounded like SF and starwars! But... it could be improved. Here's the idea:

Suppose the same thing happened again. But this time the driver owns a brand new 3Gs with voice activation. Suppose some smart iPhone developer kid made an app (ShaziTun ?) that worked out the script:

Driver drives places...traffic is huge... car stereo plays some cool jazz tuned on Radio 3!
Driver likes the song they're playing right now.
Driver talks to an iPhone and sez "Find that song!"
iPhone samples it, calls 'home', finds out song coordinates, and tells driver "It's Gymnopedie with George Shearing. Do you want to own it?"
Driver, with eyes fixed on driving and the traffic, and without looking at the phone at all, goes: "Yes"
App goes via iTunes and finds a few alternative covers. It sez "They don't sell the original but here's some alternatives". And it plays a couple of samples...
Driver goes "Buy second sample"
App asks driver "Spell your password"
Drivers goes "M-O-R-O-N-G-E-E-K" (or anything else for that matter)
App buys the song and once downloaded it sez: "Purchase completed. Do you want me to play it on iTunes?"
Driver goes "Yep"
Music plays thru the car stereo.
Driver gets orgasmic! Traffic is still packed... But, who cares anymore! Long Live His Jobness!

This would be a driver safest possible process for any app on the planet. Also, it could be used by older or visually disabled people. If you ask me, Apple itself should enhance iTunes to behave like that. And they should offer this version as part of their standard package by not charging any additional penny. Are you listening Apple?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Living with the Snow Leopard

I happen to be one of these fortunate geeks that gets previews of many software products before they become publicly available. So, my latest gig, right after the WWDC, has been my decision to give Snow Leo a try, as I thought it would be pretty stable, not?

I was right. I put the new version on my desktop iMac 24" and my MBPro 15", and they both run like a charm. It's so bad that I hardly notice any difference with before. In fact, there isn't much to see above the veil... it's all hidden.

Fine, there are some new elements in the Finder, like better previews of Microsoft Office files (PPTs, and XLSs), in-icon previewing of certain file formats, sizing of thumbnails, and some animated rearranging of icons on the desktop if you happen to force a change of an item's order by changing its name (I've got mine ordered by name). There's this new Quicktime app (that Divx already implemented for ages) that seems to work fine, ok... not to get too excited about - not the end of the world! There's what they showed going on with the stacks too, but in all honesty, I've not been using the old stack features that much anyway, so it's kinda like a virtual welcome bonus to me...

What else? Oh, yeah, the clicking and holding an app on the dock, supposedly producing an app related exposé, doesn't seem to work yet on my boxes, unless I need to enable something that I haven't yet seen.

What I found annoying was the fact that I had to delete all my printers and add them back again. The old drivers were still there intact but apparently after the install the system couldn't work with the previous config. Anyways, as long as you know what to do, it works fine.

The one thing that scared the shite out of me though was the experience I had on the MBPro when I tried to connect my iPhone and open up iTunes right after the install. I got the message that my iTunes Library was created with a more recent version of iTunes so it couldn't open it!!! And dear me, I had no recent backups! Shite! How could that be? Shite again!!! I had not experienced that with the iMac install though. Conclusion: Learn by your mistakes... Snow Leo uses an older iTunes version than the one available at the Apple site, today. With almost explosive diarrhea, I went online to download the most recent iTunes version that Apple boasts and install it on the MacBook. Launched iTunes again and, thank Moses, everything was back to normal. Ouff! I could breath again!

The rest, as much as I could see after 24 hrs of Snow Leo, seems pretty much the same. Except of some feeling that things are moving faster and smoother on anything I did on the new environment, with only one exception: Parallels and Windows. It made me feel like I was working on a PC box again, from the previous century. I hope this was incidental and not a permanent thing. I'm sure the kids from Parallels are all over this, if my feeling's proven correct.

In any case, the only app I had crash on me early on, after the install, was iTunes, of all things. For the rest, I wonder why they don't launch it before the summer. They'd better listen to Microsoft more often about releasing early OS versions to the public... (I'm so bad, ain't I?).

I believe Bertrand Serlet is a genius (despite his froggy accent, but living in Belgium, I'm used to it), and that what he told us about the new advanced technologies that will make 10.6 a landmark version to be genuine and truthful. But the problem is, although the new code they put in and techologies like Grand Central Dispatching must have cost them gazillions, the final result for a dumb average user like myself does not show too much novelty justifying anything than a free upgrade. This explains the historic price drop to 29 bucks an upgrade. In any case, kudos to Apple who, in this case, they have obviously chosen for long term OS quality and smooth user experience than for the short term shareholder buck. It is good afterall that most of their Executive Directors (except his Jobness) do not hold substantial AAPL share amounts, neither options... I think!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

MMS Configuration for iPhone @ Proximus... and the Tethering blues!

Check the latest too

Ok... for all Belgian iPhone aficionados who impatiently awaited version 3.0 of the firmware to start sending MMSs, you're up for an initial disappointment. After successful upgrade to iPhone version 3.0, don't expect anything to happen like they show on TV (sorry, on the Apple site, I mean) like a little camera icon left of the text entry field at the bottom of the window view of the SMS page. Only way to get MMS going (at least if you are a subscriber of the service with Proximus) is to configure MMS itself in your Settings. At your home screen click on Settings > General > Network > Cellular Data Network and move to the MMS section next. Copy the values in the corresponding fields as they appear on the screen capture here on the right (click for sharper view) and Bob's your uncle. Reboot and next time you launch SMS you'll find the familiar camera right at its place and MMS ready to go... Just like on TV...

Enabling Tethering on 3.0, unfortunately, is gonna be more complicated. There is a custom made bundled configuration file you need to 'upgrade' with after you installed 3.0, and similar files are only made available by Apple to the subscribers of the operators with exclusive contracts. Indeed for Belgium, Apple has only made available the Mobistar file (is that a bitch, or what!?), but I expect the morons at Proximus to eventually wake up and do the same by the time 3.0 gets launched by the 17th of this month (anniversary of the uprising against the Soviets in Berlin in 1953, the Watergate in 1972, Eddy Merckx's birthday, and... mine). Trust me, I seen the guts of that file and once you know the right configuration values corresponding to an operator, a bit like the MMS thing, it'll take no rocket scienctist to fix it. A below average hacker can do it! They better do that then at Proximus or we'll all have to move to Mobistar, innit? Are you listening Belgacom?!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Over men and megapixels in the iPhone 3GS

Right after the WWDC keynote yesterday I fell into a monumental moron, posting about how he was disappointed and hated what he heard and how he'd heard it all before. Cool! He was especially pissed about the 3 megapixel camera that Apple put onto the new announced 3Gs. Some dudes are so full of shit, aint' they? Ok, let's go ahead and prove this mathematically! I mean it!

There's a legend that goes like this: When they asked President George Washington how long should a man's legs be, he responded "as long as necessary to touch the ground". Let's "parallel think" this for a minute. How many pixels should a camera have? Answer, as many as the resulting picture looks 'analog' smooth and not 'digital' and pixelized.

When you look at a picture you shot on a VGA monitor, because, poor you, that's all you've got, an old fashioned VGA tube, then the number of pixels you'd need to fill-up that screen is a mere 640x480, that is 307K pixels, or 0.3MP. The picture would still look cool at that resolution on your VGA screen.

If you decided to print the same VGA 640x480 picture on paper though, then you could only get acceptable viewing quality for prints no larger than 3x4 inches... which is still ok for passport shots but not too brilliant to expose in a family album... In other words, even a VGA 0.3 MP camera could still fit some purpose (VGA slideshows and small prints). If all you wanna do is just this, why should you waste more dough in higher megapixel gear, at all?

So, first question to ask yourself is: What do I wanna do with my shots? I'll tell you what most people like you actually do: Either show-off them pictures on a brand new full HDTV they just brought home, or print them into some "normal" paperprints. This is the most usual practice millions of people worldwide normally do with pictures taken with most common digital cameras, right? Well, let's look at what you'd need for those two purposes:

For HDTV: you need to "populate" 1920x1080 available pixels that's give-'n-take 2 megapixels. In other words, an old 3G (current type) iPhone will give you enough pixels to fill that space but, maybe, in the wrong aspect ratio (1600x1200). Pity! You'll be able to fill the height of your monitor just fine but not the width. Anyway, it's still ok. The 3Gs will eventually have one more megapixel (3MP in total announced), enough to fill the entire HDTV space and have some spare pixels for you to throw away. It's actually got a million pixels more than the HDTV needs to fill up. You may need to crop them shots in Photoshop though before you display them, to make sure your TV monitor is filled-up properly in the proper aspect ratio. Morale of the story: the new iPhone 3Gs is just fine to get you orgasmic after all, at the look of your brand new full def HDTV as it shows off your candid iPhone 3Gs snapshots, innit?

Lets examine normal paperprints now: Define a normal print first. That's a print that you can easily handle. Most universal practice for billions of people worldwide are the 4x6 inch paperprints (10x15 cm). If you went higher than that, you get to the next commonly used 5x7 inch (about 13x18 cm). Those ones are pretty big for normal people and their albums and less frequently used, for sure. Finally, if you like real big, you may go to a classic A4 format (210x297mm). But this format is huge for common use purposes. I got a few of those in my boxes and, although they look nice, there are too big to handle. So, scrap them from the commonly used print formats. Too big, almost mini posters. Anything above this format qualifies as impractical and quite specific.

Next point. How many dots per inch must you have available in pixel density terms so that your prints coming out of your inkjet look as good as it gets? The magic answer is: Minimum 150, preferably 200. Professional graphic designers use about 240 for mainstream magazine prints (trust me, I know, my sibling earns his living in that trade and he mostly designs art magazines and stuff for musea, like Beaux Arts in Brussels, and art galleries... who would know better then, eh?). OK, let's do the math.

If you print a 4x6" print at 200 dots/inch you'd need shots at a 800x1200 pixels size (at least, that's what Photoshop sez...). That's exactly short of one million pixels, right? In other words, the classic iPhone 3G would give you quality 4x6 inch prints at 200 dots/inch hands down! And these are the iPhones we use today, not the new ones with the improved camera, right? In fact, a classic 3G iPhone's 2 MP camera would do just fine even for 6x8" prints ! ! ! (which is basically way bigger than the other common format of 5x7" that we discussed earlier).

In other words, the "lousy" 2 Mpx cameras available on today's 25 million+ iPhones out there are still good enough to cover 99.5% of the needs for snapshot prints of the common man. Even more so, the new 3GS would do much better and get to print quite well even on impossible A4 formats, and more. At 150 dots per inch print density, that's still not too bad for prints, they may even get closer to printing A3 posters...

(UPDATE: Take a look at the table above in detail - click on it for sharper view. It shows you the safe zones for good prints. The rows are in camera MPs and the columns are paperprint dimensions in inches. The colored cells show you the resulting print resolution in dots per inch. Anything cooler than green - blue to purple - is safe for prints. Green is for half blind and orange is for monkeys... The formula used is WxHxD2(squared). You square the print Density in dots per inch and multiply the result by Width times Height. This gives you the required camera pixels that you need to have to get a print at given dimensions and dot density... which result you then divide by a million rounded to get the needed camera MPs. Try this out, folks, for kicks. Apparently, the authors of this table thought that any print with density above 100 dots/inch is still cool. That's a bit of an overkill, I reckon. /UPDATE)

So, why are all those fake geeks, posting microblogs about 'not enough' MPs, are so full of shit? Are they so presumptuous and only need to print A2 posters of their marvels? I'll tell ya! It's because they simply carry half a brain in their scull and couldn't tell a good snapshot even if it hit 'em in the face, that's why, pardon my French!

But, still, why the fuss then about megapixel marathons going on, leading to messed-up perceptions among ignorant public and braindead geek look-alikes? Why do all manufacturers known to man boost new offerings with more and more MPs ? (for some amateur and prosumer models it's not uncommon to see 10 and 12 megapixels today. Simply ridiculous) IMHO manufacturers managed to lock themselves real good into that dead-end marketing trap. In the prehistoric times (last century) when digital cameras were only offering fractions of one megapixel, at best, and prints looked bad, small and jagged, everybody used to discount digital photography with the common anathema "see? it's gonna be long before digital prints get even close to the quality level of negative prints". Under those conditions new models kept on launching under the assumption that higher pixelcount is way better. Well, it was then, to an extent. As I said, it all depends on what you plan to do with your shots. If you wish to print monster prints on your living room wallpaper, or wanna print huge highway billboards, then fine... you need some serious shit in MP terms! But, for Joe the plumber? C'm on! 3 Mpx is more than what his wee tiny brain will ever be able to look at, let alone enjoy...

Lemme tell 'ya somethin' else, though. The capturing elements in digital cameras, that have all those megapixels (honeycomb) spread all over, have not substantially grown in terms of their total surface (say, square mm) over time, at least not at the same rate as their corresponding megapixels. What that means is that the available surface per megapixel, that wee tiny piece of light sensitive circuitry that captures photons to convert them into electric voltages proportional to the luminance for each of the three captured colors (sounds like techie shit, not?), tends to shrink, right? More pixels over a given constant surface of a capturing element means less available surface per pixel, right? C'm on, dude, you don't need a PhD to grasp that!

Ok, less capturing surface per pixel, right? Is that a problem? Yes, sir! It's a nightmare! The smaller the capturing surface of a pixel, the worse the noise to signal ratio and the messier the look of the resulting shots, especially under low light conditions, mostly experienced in the dynamic range of dark and shadow parts. Looks really ugly. To the point it gets tears in your eyes thinking about those 100 dollar bills you counted on the table to pay each and every one of those MP motherfuckers. And you cry, bitter tears visibly running down your face, how come my brand new 7 megapixel sweet gear shoots pictures that look like shit? You rather stayed with the old box, correct? Right on the money... Of course manufacturers tend to 'try to' solve some of these issues with software and keep on boasting about their famous image processing "engines", but the fact of the matter is, you'd be a certified moron if you went for anything above 3 to 5 megapixels in any simple point an' shoot digital camera for your daily snapshots.

Now, how many MPs should your iPhone have, then? Well, it's a bloody phone after all, init? I guess with 3 MP it'd do just fine! I've got the first Nikon D1 in my assembly of dedicated DSLRs with 2.7 megapixels (!!) and it shoots way better pictures on A4 prints than my latest 10.1 Megapixel Canon 40D with a 2.8 70-200 lens. Why is that? Surface per pixel and noise to signal ratio is your anwer! And some good glass, of course... Same thing when I compare my 2MP iPhone with my 5MP Nokia N95. iPhone wins hands down. Yeah, right, I got 3 million pixels more on the Nokia but when I blow them up in Photoshop to check quality, I feel suicidal...

QED. The 'geek' that complained about the 3 MPs of the upcoming iPhone 3Gs is a monumental moron with a Homer Simpson size brain. Who pretends that he knows this shit well. Retarded cretin.

Don't let them fool you folks. I really know this world. With 4 SLRs, 6 DSLRs, 30+ lenses, 5 point and shoots, and three to four phone cameras, not to forget a classic Hasselblad and a 4x5 inch Toyo field camera, in the last 30 years alone, I seen it all... yep... don't let 'em fool you, ever...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

My favorite passtime...

I've been drawing pictures and painting for as long as I can remember. Just as a passtime. I'm neither a creative nor a professional painter, mind you... I've enjoyed doing that as others enjoy shooting pictures or fishing. You gotta have some passtime, you know, to be able to let-go some energy and divert your thoughts somehow. Old story.

At first I tried pencils and very quickly moved to oils on cardboard or canvas. From early sixties to early nineties. It's in the last 20 years that I tried some other media as well. My latest gig is working with Wacom tablets and Corel Painter... so, no smelly paints, no dirty clothes and no drying time. Wunderbar! And also, as many copies of the original without any loss of quality. Go digital, my boy!

See my latest "creation" shown here above, started with a Wacom stylus and Corel Painter yesterday and finished a few hours ago, this morning. I was looking for some afternoon snacks in the kitchen yesterday when my spouse showed up back from the supermarket with some grapes that she put, literally in front of my nose, on a plate. I liked what I saw and I grabbed my iPhone to shoot some pictures. Up in my room then, printed on paper the best iPhone shot of them grapes and launched Painter. Put the printed photograph on my Wacom tablet, contoured the grapes and then started "painting" in the virtual world. It's probably the third time I used this combination to paint something "serious". It's a lot simpler than it seems.

If you click the shot shown above will bring you to a chronological slideshow of the largest sample of my drawings I was able to assemble in the last (almost) 50 years... It starts with my first "work" when I was 7-8 years old.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Why Bing will never make it...

Ok, now that I got your attention, look here. As I was wasting time twittering I see a LiveSearch tweet announcing the going live of Mr. BING. So, there I am linking to their homepage showing a snow leopard ready to bite your balls off (not sure for the snow or leopard part, I'm not that good in recognizing cats, but for a Mac aficionado it sure sounds intriguing if that cat was a snow leopard after all).

First target I try searching of course is my own VJK Diaries. Bing gives me a first page with plenty of mentions (click on the right screen capture for sharper view) but hardly any single hit pointing to the blog itself, as it should. Actually that blog is the sole responsible for all the hits that BING found. So, Bing found plenty of hits with the target but not the real thing, anywhere close to the top rank of the first return page! Ain't that sweet folks?!

For the ultimate comparison, I entered the same search term into Google and here's what I got (click for sharper view, as before):

Read them thru, kids. The proof is in the pudding! Google's rank is full of hits directly related to the blog, and for a full page, before it gets to hits alike those of Bing's.

Now simply tell me. What do you think people prefer? An accurate hit or just a hit with cats?

In D7 they showed a stats graph proving that most people choose a Search engine for its accuracy and ranking of hits. The rest is just shite for the retarded. Like the dude who spent billions of his company's immense cash pockets to create Bing, but had actually preferred it was called BOOM! I must credit him for preferring Boom though. It'd be closer to the implosion disaster he's about to face not in the too distant future, like his Encarta or the books scanning project...

D7 Conference

Geeks of the world unite. And, go watch the D7 videos, since most of you, like me, could not afford to fly to California and attend the event live. I must say, they have been quite effective the way they implemented their clips page ( I suspect AJAX is the answer). Selection of a clip is lightning fast and their small size player works just fine, almost with microHD quality. There aren't yet enough implementations like these on the net.

It's fun to check out an article with all "worthwhile" quotes too, mentioned during the conference, and mostly extracted during the interviews. My favorite one came from Greek nationality turned US citizen, GOP fervent supporter turned extreme Liberal, Huffington Post owner Arianna Huffington saying: "You are so lucky I am not born in this country", responding to a question about her running for President. And the other one from Monkeyboy who mentioned that h'd have preferred Boom as a name for Bing. No wonder Fake Steve Jobs used to call him Monkeyboy...

I liked both interviews with Carol Bartz and Ballmer, not so much for their content, but for both characters participating in these. Carol Bartz was totally unknown to me and she's fun to watch as she radiates a feeling of "wash your mouth first before you dare talk to me, dude" whereas monkeyboy is as ever full of energy and... shite!

Finally, the interview with the two MySpace folks was quite interesting to the point that I transcripted for you a few of their quotes. These were actually made by the News Corp digital head Jon Miller, who kind of appeared to me like News Corp CEO's watchdog over the dude who manages MySpace, Owen Van Natta (sounds Dutch), but I may be wrong. These quotes seemed to me fair and rather general, but, above all, demonstrating that boring CEO lingo that I am so much NOT gonna miss, ever.

"You got to get the product right, you got to nail those experiences for well defined groups and communities and once you do that , then that's when you can really... it can grow big on you...

It's fine to have competitors... I don't think it's gonna be a winner takes all game...

The product process needs to be such that you can continually wrap, continually iterate and continually innovate... and that is a process... and you gotta bake that in on how you organize your product teams or you use metrics to let you know the right things are happening... in real time or every five minutes even, things like that.

It's about iteration and about getting that into the DNA of the company... And I think why it's so important and why a lot of companies do not end up doing it on a continual basis, is because, as they grow the product process tends to become more inwardly facing.

And so the whole key to me in continuous innovation is having continual market focus but making it really real... And I think keeping that market focus and continual innovation process intact... And I think that it is very hard for any company over time to do that, that's why you have to be focused to it..."

PS. If you were wondering what that picture I posted here from a D7 Program Book with Ballmer and Bartz side by side, their bios printed on same page, read the gossip behind here...