"Well, that's just, like, your opinion, man."

Bird Note

10/30/14, 4:24 PM

Enjoyed the weather this morning, walking Bodhi, saw two wading birds, each perched on a fence rail.

First was a Green Heron. These are smallish, about the size of a Snowy Egret.

Photo of a Green Heron.

The other was an Egret. Got a couple of decent shots.

Photo of an Egret perched on a fence rail.

I liked this one too:

Photo of an Egret perched on a fence rail.

Nerd Note

10/29/14, 9:55 AM

iPhone 6

I ordered the 64GB iPhone 6 from the Apple Store and it arrived yesterday, about a week ahead of what they projected when I ordered it. (Under-promise and over-deliver, maybe?) I got the T-Mobile off-contract model because it ships from Apple unlocked. That also means I paid full price. AT&T would have increased my monthly payment (removed my "discount"), if I'd have elected to "upgrade."

As discussed elsewhere, you just pop out the T-Mobile SIM, insert your AT&T SIM and you're on AT&T, good to go. I'm hoping this also avoids a nuisance "upgrade" fee from AT&T, like $15.00 or something. I'll see on my next bill, I guess.

My first impression of the phone is that it's definitely bigger; more so than I'd expected, even after I'd handled one in the Apple Store. After using the 6 yesterday evening and this morning, then picking up my 5s just a few minutes ago, the 5s feels more comfortable. I'm accustomed to doing nearly everything on my phone with one hand. So far, I think I'm still able to do most things one-handed, but I don't feel as confident that I have control of the phone in my hand. I also bought the Apple leather case, which makes the phone just a bit larger, but the leather offers more grip than the bare aluminum. The 6 is pocketable, but it's noticeably larger. Large enough that the grippier leather case can make it hard to extract the phone from a front jeans pocket.

Surprisingly, the phone didn't ship with iOS 8.1 installed, so restoring from backup was delayed until I'd set up the phone as a new device and updated the OS. Restoring from backup is a lengthy process, and it still requires a sync with iTunes to install all the apps. Figure a couple of hours from getting it out of the box to being loaded and ready to go. Any books from the iBooks bookstore also have to be downloaded. Be sure to encrypt your backup to iTunes so that all your passwords get restored, otherwise you'll be entering all that data by hand again as well.

In hand, the 5s feels better, but I definitely prefer the larger screen of the 6 for everything, especially photographs. I elected to forego the "zoom" option on the display. I may revisit that if my vision deteriorates much further, but for now I've chosen to remain at the native resolution, but elected to increase the default text size for apps that use dynamic text sizes. Even with the larger size, I can see more text on the 6 than on the 5s. Here are a couple of screenshots. One from the 6, the other from the 5s. The 6 is using larger dynamic text. If I had better HTML skills, these would be side by side, but I think you can kind of get the idea. (Update: Okay, looks like they're displaying side by side anyway. And SmugMug has resized them to be the same dimensions on the web page. As screenshots, the iPhone 6 shot is bigger due to the larger display. If you click through, you can see them in all their pixel-for-pixel glory. But what gets lost here is the larger text size in the display. It's not a lot, but it is bigger, and I can still see more of the e-mail.)

iPhone 6 Screenshot iPhone 5s Screenshot

Here's an iPod shot of the two screens, makes the point more clearly:

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

I've only played with the camera a little bit, so I don't have any real impressions to offer yet.

Overall, my first impression is favorable. It's less comfortable in the hand, but the larger screen area offers enough advantages to overlook the size issues.

Yosemite

I've been using a developer beta version of Yosemite since WWDC. I've been pleased with the release all along, although there were some graphic glitches early on. I'm still seeing a graphic glitch while scrolling in iTunes 12, but for the most part, everything looks great. I had no difficulties installing 10.10 on either my 2009 iMac or my 2012 13" MacBook Pro Retina.

I did get an alert that my Time Machine backup disk was too full to allow a backup after the update on the MBP, even after deleting old backups. I eventually just erased the drive and created a completely new backup.

One of the new features I've used in Yosemite is Finder's new ability to batch rename files. It's another little touch that's making the Finder a capable app for managing photos.

Speaking of which, I'm using iCloud Photos Beta. I can't really comment on how well it works because I'm kind of straddling the transition at the moment. Right now I have Photo Streams and iCloud Photos active on my iOS devices. This means that pictures that I take using the iPhone will be automatically imported into Aperture because I have Photo Streams turned on in that app. But Photo Stream does not appear as a source on the iOS devices, so images I import into Aperture no longer appear on my iOS devices, as they formerly did in the Photo Stream library.

I haven't explored all that there is to offer in Yosemite in terms of integration with iOS 8, but I'm looking forward to doing so.

Osprey

10/21/14, 8:39 AM

Sometimes I get a little lucky. I wasn't set up for shooting birds, so I was just shooting from the hip with the mZuiko 14-150mm on the E-M5 while walking Bodhi.

I thought these turned out okay.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Photo of an Osprey overhead. Photo of an Osprey overhead. Photo of an Osprey overhead.

Still experimenting with SmugMug sharing. Need to work out the kinks, I think.

The Mansion On The Hill

10/17/14, 8:38 PM

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Kind of a haunted house look, I think. Shot with my iPhone, edited in Snapseed and cropped in Aperture.

Little Camera

10/16/14, 11:29 AM

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

(Click for larger version at SmugMug.)

Shot this with my little Olympus XZ-10 compact digital. (You can make out the silhouette of an Osprey in the tree on the right.) Olympus, like most camera companies, was taking a beating from smart phones with cameras. Simple compact digital cameras were just being buried by phones.

One of the ways camera manufacturers tried to compete was in making more sophisticated compact cameras. The XZ-1, its successor the XZ-2 and the XZ-10 were three examples by Olympus. I own both the XZ-1 and the XZ-10. They're compact cameras with relatively small sensors, the XZ-10 uses a 1/2.3" sensor (6.17mm x 4.55mm), which is still larger than the iPhone 5s sensor, which is 1/3.0" (4.8mm x 3.6mm); but they have very high quality lenses attached to them.

The iPhone has a wonderful little camera, but there are some things it's just not terribly well suited for, and this type of long exposure is one of them. First, you'd need a tripod for the iPhone; the XZ-10 has a thicker body that can sit upright on a stable surface, in this case a fence rail. Second, the ZX-10 image processing engine will perform a little trick for long exposures. After you expose the shot, the camera closes the shutter and takes another exposure of the same duration with no light hitting the sensor. The resulting image is merely the electronic "noise" of the sensor. The image processor then subtracts that image data from the first image to remove much of the noise in the image. I believe someone could write an app like that for the iPhone, but, to my knowledge, it hasn't happened yet.

There are some other significant advantages, a real zoom lens being one of them. The XZ-10 can shoot much wider than the 5s, and it can optically zoom from 26mm (35mm effective focal length) to 130mm efl. You can also vary the aperture from f1.8(wide)/2.7(tele) to f8. This can give you some additional depth of field control, although not a great deal. The iPhone's camera is a fixed aperture and fixed focal length.

The XZ-series cameras have all been discontinued. You can find them for sale from time to time, sometimes at a great discount. Olympus seems to be focusing more on super-zooms and rugged compacts now, which is kind of a shame as these were some very sweet little cameras.

Blogging Like It's 1999

10/15/14, 12:44 PM

Back on the 6th of this month, I wrote a little blog post noting something interesting I'd read at On Deciding… Better. I added that while mental maps serve to orient identity in space, narrative, the "stream of consciousness"/"story of us" orients identity in time.

That's pretty much what blogging was like back in the early years of this century. You'd read something you thought was interesting, share a link to it, add some of your own thoughts.

If you're lucky, or have a few readers, maybe one of them would pick up on it and share it with their readers. Which is what Garrett Vreeland did at dangerousmeta! Garrett is another blogging acquaintance from back in the old days. He added a couple of thoughts of his own, and his blog hosts comments, and so there's another thought shared.

Closing the loop, Dr. Vornov noted my post, and expands discussion by asking the question are reflection and self examination enough to alter the mental map to yield a better result? His answer seems to be that they can be; but also noting that other minds, and therefore, other maps can "push back," and therefore further alter the map.

So it seems that the interiority of our experience is not as solitary as it might appear. Our map-making and story-telling are collaborative efforts, whether we know it or not.

Everything is connected.

Even without Facebook.

Test Photo Post

10/15/14, 12:25 PM

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Rather than export images to a folder on my web page, I'm going to see how this pans out. This is kind of an experiment, not a commitment.

Back to Facebook

10/15/14, 10:31 AM

I started Nice Marmot about a year ago in an effort to extricate myself from the web of "social media." I closed and deleted (or so I thought), my Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and LinkedIn accounts. Nice Marmot would be my main presence on the web. I have serious reservations about the privacy implications of social media and the search engine giant, Google.

A few weeks ago, I was looking through my high school yearbook and noticed a picture that really struck me. It was three of my classmates, all men, and all of them are dead. Just days before, I'd received a text from a friend telling me that another classmate had passed away. I called another friend who I used to see on Facebook, but hadn't spoken to in some time, and she asked me if I was going to the reunion next year. I hadn't heard about the reunion, but I'm pretty sure I'd like to go.

This all troubled me a bit, feeling somewhat disconnected from these folks. On a whim one night, I logged into Facebook. I expected to be denied access, because I believe I followed all the steps to close and delete my account. To my surprise, it logged me right in, and everything was as I left it. My last post was something like September 23rd, 2013. That's a little troubling, but I suppose I'm a bit grateful as well. It tells me that you can never really delete anything you've posted to Facebook. It's going to be there forever.

Because I still maintain that this concentration of personal information is going to work against us in the long run, I'm making some effort to limit my exposure there. I've decided not to put the Facebook app on my phone. At least that way, I think I'm denying Facebook data about my day to day whereabouts, and I'm less inclined to post status updates about my current activity. I'll still share photos and links, but I don't think I'll be uploading pictures of breakfast anymore. (You're welcome.)

I'm going to be doing most of my interactions here, and posting links to them on Facebook. If any of my friends are interested, they'll have to come here. I'm going to experiment with different ways of sharing photos, such that I'm not actually maintaining albums on Facebook anymore. The ones I've already created will remain there, but I'll try to direct folks to either SmugMug or Apple's Photos sharing, as soon as I figure out what that's going to look like. Perhaps I'll use Flickr as well, I'm not certain.

In any event, I'm back on Facebook because that's where the people are. They don't have to stay there, but until we can get them to leave, I have to be there too.

Artists Good and Great

10/10/14, 8:58 AM

There's been some predictable internet "tsk-tsk'ing" going on about Jony Ive's complaint regarding seeing other manufacturers copying Apple's designs. Naturally, he doesn't like it.

But the cognoscenti, those who believe themselves to be sophisticated in such matters, refer to Steve Jobs quoting Picasso, "Good artists copy. Great artists steal." They believe that Ive's lament smacks of hypocrisy, given Apple's history with PARC and the graphical user interface, the iPod and preceding portable MP3 players, and even the iPhone, given somewhat similar designs from Sony and others.

Hypocrisy! When Apple does it, it's art! When others do it, it's stealing!

I don't think any of these people really understand what Picasso was saying.

There's a difference between "copying" and "stealing" in Picasso's sense.

Anyone making a copy is simply adding another version of an an original thing. It's just a copy. When he says "Great artists steal," he means that great artists make preceding work their own. They "steal" the ownership of the idea. Not in the sense that they physically take possession of the idea, an idea is not something that can be owned, except metaphorically.

A great artist can take a preexisting idea and execute it in a way that finds broader resonance, greater marketplace success, than the originator of the idea, such that the larger culture associates the idea with that artist and not the originator.

The Macintosh, more so than even the Lisa, to say nothing of Xerox's work at PARC, is associated with the origin of the graphical user interface. Windows went on, in its fourth iteration, to enjoy greater success in the marketplace, largely due to price and predatory market practices by Microsoft. But no one that I'm aware of truly associates Windows with the origin of the graphical user interface in the way that Apple is.

What Microsoft did, and what Google, and Samsung and others are doing, are merely copying Apple's designs. There is some differentiation. Google's business model is utterly different than Apple's. But I don't think Apple's in any danger of losing its association with the creation of the first truly modern "smart" phone.

If anyone were to take an idea that Apple is executing and made it significantly better in a unique way that made it their own, which is what I think Microsoft is trying to do with Windows 8, Windows Phone and the Metro UI, I think you'd find the folks at Apple truly appreciating that effort and not regarding it as theft.

A Thought Regarding iOS 8 Uptake

10/8/14, 2:33 PM

John Gruber calls reports that iOS users have stopped upgrading to iOS 8 "very worrisome," and suggests that's it's a loss of faith in Apple's updates following the 8.0.1 snafu.

I'd like to suggest a more likely explanation, based on a few anecdotal data points.

To do an over the air (OTA) update, your iOS device needs a certain amount of free storage space available on the device. (As I recall, it's nearly 5GB, 4.8 or something like that.) Since many people are updating from devices that were either initially purchased with the minimum amount of storage (8GB, 16GB), or are updating devices that have associated accounts with long use (i.e. an iPhone 5 with 32GB of storage, but was itself an upgrade from a 4 or 4S with a lot of storage and therefore data on it), they don't have enough room to do an OTA update.

And therein lies the rub.

Most people don't understand how to connect to iTunes and back up their iPhone or other device, delete enough apps to make room to do an OTA update, and then restore from an iTunes backup. Most people never turned on iCloud backup, and 5GB of backup isn't enough for real utility anyway.

I don't think it's a matter of trust, I just think it's "too hard" for a lot of people right now until they get someone who knows their way around iOS and backups to perform the upgrade for them.

A Place For Everything

10/6/14, 12:10 PM

Dr. James Vornov, neurologist and long-time fellow blogging acquaintance, has been posting some interesting thoughts lately. Recently, he's considering the idea of mental maps, and how metaphors of place and size influence how we choose to think about the world and our presence in it. His posts are succinct and perhaps more intended as food for thought than a lengthy exposition on the topic under consideration, and therefore well worth the modest investment of your time.

Those of you who know me know that, for better or worse, I'm unencumbered by such discipline.

Today's post was enhanced by the news that May Britt-Moser, Edvard Moser and John O'Keefe will share the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work on understanding how the brain forms mental maps.

James seems to be exploring the idea of how our abstract metaphors influence the way we regard the world and our place in it. It's a worthwhile effort, and we know we've struggled with this notion on a larger scale in our history, perhaps most notably in science and religion. For much of the history of the Catholic Church, man's "place" was held to be at the center of the observable universe, as all the visible features of the larger universe appeared to revolve around the earth. Astronomy later showed that such was not the case, and the Catholic Church's first reaction was to shoot the messenger.

Apart from being interesting history, this also seems to show that our mental maps are at least in some measure tied up with our notions of identity, as in our notions of being a "westerner" (as in hemisphere, though less broadly as an American from America's west). This is important because ideas of identity are intimately important to us, and we're often reluctant to question our ideas about our identity.

James suggests that since it's just a map, and not the "real" world, we can change it and in so doing, change ourselves.

Which is a pretty cool idea.

But Galileo's experience suggests it might be a little challenging, though even the church eventually came around.

While mental maps may serve to help our cognitive awareness orient itself in space, and give it some ideas about identity, what orients our cognitive awareness in time?

Narrative.

The little voice in our heads that's always telling us the story of ourselves.

All narratives are works of fiction. Just as James says the "real" world cannot be directly experienced, our cognitive awareness is mere a representation of our consciousness created by a function of a working mind. It can be changed as well. Narrative isn't fixed, it's always in the act of creation and always undergoing revision.

Well, I'll leave you with a little Sister Hazel video that was shot somewhere around here about three years ago. The lyrics are clear, but there's a lot of crowd noise from the venue. Still, I like the performance.

October

10/1/14, 9:11 PM

Well, here we are.

Another year of ranting into the void.

Carry on.