eBook Paralysis

The linked article almost perfectly presents my concerns about eBooks (and eComics). As consumers we are being corralled into a complete publishing ecosystem. Well, maybe not complete since with the rise of "app-based computing" we are not being tying to hardware platforms. (e.g. I can read a book from Amazon in my Kindle app on my iPad.)

I recognized almost as soon as the iPad was released with the iBookstore that I was going to need to make some choices. Worst case, I would buy a book wherever I could get it and then have to remember which store that was in order to open the appropriate application to consume it.

Going with the best ecosystem would seem to be the answer, but while Amazon has the lead here, the race is still awfully close where Apple is concerned. My inability to make a choice has completely paralyzed me. I have paid money for exactly zero books or comics right now.

Sorry, you can't open that book here – Telegraph Blogs

Photography and Creative Commons

A couple of tweets have come from Scott Bourne (@ScottBourne) in the past couple days regarding giving up control of your images. Specifically when uploading to Facebook. This doesn't really surprise me.

I was going to tweet him back and ask for his thoughts on Creative Commons, but before I did that I thought I should search to see if he had already weighed in on the topic. And indeed he had!

What You Don’t Know About Creative Commons Could Kill You- Going Pro 2010

It was quite illuminating. I have been posting to sites with a CC license and after reading Scott's thoughts, I am rethinking that position.

Unfortunate Headline: "Microsoft BPOS Cloud Suite Hit by Access Problems"

The following headline really illustrates how Microsoft marketing really works against them much of the time.

Microsoft BPOS Cloud Suite Hit by Access Problems [PCWorld]

Netflix Comes To iPhone/iPod Touch

I had to look at the calendar this morning because I thought it was Christmas.  Under the tree (ok, in my iTunes app updates queue) was an update to the iPad Netflix app which adds support for iPhone and iPod Touch.

Things look a little basic so far.  So while I'm not seeing options like "recently watched" yet, your instant queue, the ability to browse by genre and a search function are ready and waiting to help pump that video to your device over wi-fi or 3G.

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

I'm not sure I would say this guy is pretty, but at least he is in focus with a decent amount of detail.

The experiment in this case was to create a faux HDR image by creating copies of the original RAW file with different exposure settings and then using the Merge to HDR Pro option of Photoshop CS5. I was able to get back some detail in the white feathers under the eye that were a bit overexposed.

Kung Fu Superheroes: THE MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE [Blog@Newsarama]

There are two kung-fu movies that I distinctly remember seeing when I was a kid.  One was Master Killer (aka 36th Chamber of Shao Lin) and the other was The Master of the Flying Guillotine.

Which is why this blog post at Newsarama brought a smile to my face.

Blog@Newsarama » Blog Archive » Kung Fu Superheroes: THE MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE

And for those not familiar who would like to see a trailer of this example of the finest cinema...

Fix buggy iOS apps by forcing them to quit [Macworld]

This is a very good tip that I have found to be a help since the iOS 4 betas.

Fix buggy iOS apps by forcing them to quit | Phones | iOS Central | Macworld

Three Tips For Better Photographs At High ISOs [Photofocus]

A few tips on high ISO photography with DSLRs.  The take-away is that higher ISOs are not necessarily to be avoided at all costs.  I've been guilty of being a bit overly concerned about keeping my ISO in the 100-400 range.  Higher ISOs give you more options for creating better photographs.

Three Tips For Better Photographs At High ISOs � Photofocus

Summer Storm and Silos

Summer Storm And Silos, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

The camera on the new iPhone 4 is proving to be good at motivating me to take more pictures. There are both upsides and downsides that I am beginning to notice as I work with the images it produces. On the upside, color noise seems fairly minimal. On the downside, I believe that it applies some sharpening to the image which results in edge haloing.

I'll follow up with a more complete analysis at some point.

At any rate, this was taken on my latest trip to visit my parents. Another scene from Lancaster, PA.

Adjustments handled by Lightroom 3, Photoshop CS5, Topaz Labs' Detail 2, DeNoise 5 and Adjust 4 filters.

(Topaz Lab's tools are impressing me. Yet another article in the queue.)

Testing Snow Leopard Graphics Update

Good news for all of you Steam gamers running on Macs. Apple's Graphics Update for Snow Leopard appears to work well to improve performance in Steam games (at least in Portal which is all I tested).

Testing was done on my 2009 Mac Pro with the ATI Radeon HD 4870 graphics option on a Dell 30" monitor.

The settings used in Portal are shown in the following image:

Before the update, I was getting about 30fps on level 15 with two portals visible.

After the update, I was getting a hair over 60fps.

All-in-all, I'm pleased with the results and I think you will be also.  So go ahead and take the plunge.

About the Snow Leopard Graphics Update

Dining Comfort

Dining Comfort
Dining Comfort, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

Jennies Diner in Ronks (Lancaster area), Pennsylvania. On an extremely hot and rainy day in August, the promise of shelter, air conditioning and a good meal is quite inviting.

Another shot taken with the iPhone 4, then "developed" in Lightroom 3 and further adjusted in Photoshop CS5 using Topaz Labs Adjust 4 and DeNoise 5 filters.

I am pretty sure I would never have taken this picture if I had been carrying my DSLR with me. I tend to keep a telephoto lens on the Canon since I am typically shooting from the car when I am visiting the parents. I would have had to have been in the road to have gotten this. Or else I would have had to have been packing other lenses with me.

The upgrade to the iPhone 4 has been well worth it in my book.

Net Neutrality: What's The Deal?

Ever since Verizon and Google made their announcement last week, the Internet has been a-buzz with pundits of all sorts screaming, shaking fists at they heavens, scratching their heads in puzzlement, etc.  Personally, I'm not entirely sure that I understand what all the fuss is about.

That is not me being argumentative or dissembling.  I don't pretend to understand all of the nuances of what Google and Verizon agreed to, but in terms of what it means to the consumer right now, they may as well have agreed that the Earth is flat.  It's interesting and could very well be completely wrong, but we won't be changing any educational curriculum or getting rid of any globes any time soon.

So what exactly is the deal between the two companies?  As I said before, much of it is lost on me and, quite frankly, I don't know that anyone fully understands it.  There seems to be quite a bit of ambiguity in the agreement/proposal that is open to interpretation.  Since this is not policy, this is not surprising.  It is, of course, generating quite a bit of discussion.

Google is Evil

The subtext of everything I've heard and read on this subject is that Google has become Evil even though they said they wouldn't.  Really?  A multi-billion dollar company looking out for their interests is Evil?  There is as much ambiguity in that word as there is in the proposal.  Complete altruism is not a business model that shareholders can get behind.

Aside from being a somewhat silly idea in the first place, the discussion of Google's Evilness only distracts from the real issue, in my opinion.

We the People of the Internet

Something else I have heard is that We own the Internet and these big corporations don't have the right to control it.  I understand the sentiment and I don't wholly disagree with it, but this is an emotional response to a problem that needs to be addressed with more rational dialog.

For instance, I may keep the family jewels in a safety deposit box at the bank.  (I might!  You don't know!)  I own them, but I can only get them when the bank is open, if I have my key, if I can prove who I am or at least that I have a right to the contents of the box, etc.  There are good reasons why these things are in place even though they act as an impediment to me getting to my stuff whenever I want.  Likely, there would be some concern if access were granted too easily.

If I break into a bank and get caught, no amount of monologuing about how the bank is keeping me from my family jewels is going to keep me from going to jail.  No matter how impassioned and moving my speech might be.

And this is what this whole discussion boils down to.  Access.

The Information Superhighway

Remember that old meme?  It turns out that the highway is not "super" for everyone.  In terms of broadband access, the US is way behind much of the rest of the world.  But even in the US we have superhighways, highways, toll roads, side roads, alleys, dirt roads and trails. Wired and wireless access falls squarely into this discussion.  If wired access is a superhighway then wireless is merely a highway.  As someone whose residence just got 3G access from AT&T last week, I can say that my wireless access via Edge was more akin to an Information Dirt Road than anything.

Managed Services

Sticking with the highway analogy, are "managed services" anything more than emergency or HOV lanes?  I mean, my tax dollars/tolls paid for the roads I drive on.  Don't I own that road?  Why should someone tell me I can't drive in the left-hand lane just because I am the only person on the car?  Or that I can't drive on the shoulder because they need to stay clear for emergency vehicles?  The fact is that these restrictions are in place for a reason and whether or not I agree with the reasons or restrictions, I am bound to abide by them because that is The Law.

Who Is The Law?

So before any of this really matters, proposals need to become policies.  These companies may make agreements and act upon them.  If consumers suffer because of it then consumers need to act as they have always done.  Just as altruism is not a business model, neither is pissing off the people who pay for your services.  We can vote with our wallets (a favorite saying of mine).  If there are no options (as in a monopoly) we can petition the government (FTC, DOJ, whatever).  If it truly is Our Internet, then we need to fight for it by using whatever tools we have at our disposal.  At least up to the point where policies become binding.

So what is the fear here?  That the US Government will just rubber stamp this agreement and call it a day?  How long has this discussion been going on?  For years.  How long will it continue with things as they were yesterday?  I would bet on it being years also.  Who has the power to implement solutions?

... huh ...

I think this is what really has everyone stumped.  Does the FCC have the power?  Or is this an FTC thing?  I don't think they even know that.  They seem annoyed that Google and Verizon (Veroogle?) have undermined their authority, but it seems to me that they didn't have much authority to undermine.  Do we really expect big business to stand aside while the government wrings its hands, stares into the distance and continues to do nothing?

What do other countries do?  Is net neutrality a purely American concept?  Is there a model somewhere else that works which we can adopt?  Should we start driving down the left-hand side of our superhighway Internet like they do in the UK?  Or should we be satisfied with the dirt road Internet with security checkpoints that they have in China?

What Is The Answer?

Why are you looking at me?  It's quite obvious that I don't have any answers.  I barely understand the questions!  But what seems apparent to me is that if it were not for Google and Verizon, the discussion would continue on as an interesting thought exercise; imagining what could be instead of making the hard decisions and risks (both financial and political) that it will take to get something meaningful done.

So thank you, Veroogle!  I do not for an instance believe that you did this for Us, The Owners of the Internet.  I think you were trying to make things happen for your own best interests before a decision was made that would have tied your hands.  I can't fault you for that and I don't think it makes you Evil.

Now let's see what The Opposition has got because this whole mess is just the beginning.

Get 25 great Safari extensions [Macworld]

I never considered Safari to be much of a contender as far as web browsers go.  At least until version 5 was released.  The Safari extension ecosystem is building up nicely.  Macworld has compiled a list of 25 that are worth checking out.

Get 25 great Safari extensions | Browsers & Add-Ons | MacUser | Macworld

Diner Seats

Diner Seats, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

One of the photos that I snapped with my iPhone (using the Hipstamatic app) while on my last trip as part of my iExperiment.

Home Again

I'm finally home again after a less than stellar traveling experience.  I thought my meetings went well and my time with the parents was great, but everything else about my trip was not so good, Al.

With that said, I logged some hours on the iPhone 4 and my iPad WiFi as part of my iExperiment.  I need to gather some data and get my thoughts together, but I will be sharing how well all of that worked out shortly.

My iExperiment

I'm on the road for the next few days and I'm leaving two things behind; my Macbook Pro and my Canon 40D camera.  The idea is that I should be able to survive with just my iPad and iPhone 4.  We'll see how it goes.

Devices synched with full charges on both.  Let's do this thing.

Mr. T's Table The Label

Mr. T has some fashion tips to share with you so check it out!  And don't forget to treat your mamas right when you're done.

3G Comes to Paducah!

For all of you in big, metropolitan areas who complain about spotty 3G service, you just don't understand what it's like to live in Small Town, USA.  Edge service has been all we have had (on AT&T).  Until today.

I'm giddy.

How Star Trek Artists Imagined the iPad... 23 years ago [Ars Technica]

Relating back to my post from a couple days ago this article from Ars Technica really illustrates the WttF point pretty well.  It's not flying cars and jetpacks, but it's still pretty interesting how science fiction props were imagined and how much those ideas have influenced current designs and interfaces.

How Star Trek artists imagined the iPad... 23 years ago

Manufacturing The Coffee Culture [Anthropology in Practice]

I came across a series of coffee-related articles that seem pretty interesting.  They focus on the history of coffee both in general and specifically in the US.  Check them out below.

Anthropology in Practice: Manufacturing The Coffee Culture
Anthropology in Practice: A Trail of Coffee Beans
Anthropology in Practice: Driven by Coffee: Creating a Culture of Productivity

WttF: Mobile Devices and Video

One morning a couple weeks ago I was driving into work and I had a WttF moment.  Let me 'splain by describing a fairly typical morning for me.

Like millions of others, my day starts with the alarm going off and like many others, the alarm comes from my iPhone.  I roll over, turn it off and check my personal email, check work email and then check the weather forecast.  All on my phone.

I roll out of bed and grab my iPad where I store digital copies all of my exercise DVDs.  I then drag myself to the exercise room for 45 minutes of cardio.

It's shower time next and I either crank up the Pandora app on the phone or use the Remote App to start playing something from my iTunes library.

While I make breakfast I'm back to the iPad where I will watch the start of a video podcast (typically Tech News Today [TNT] from the TWiT network).  When breakfast has been prepared, I plug in both my iPad and iPhone to the computer and sit at my desk where I can crank TNT up to watch full screen.  Since I've synched, it picks up right where I left off in the kitchen.

And since my phone as just synched, it now has unwatched copies of any new podcasts that were pulled down while I slept.  That's great news since it is now time to hit the road.  I have a phone dock in the car where I can mount the phone up next to the rear-view mirror.  I select a podcast (usually The Week In Computer Hardware [TWiCH]), Tekzilla or The Week in Google [TWiG]), start it up and I'm on my way.

Now before you start talking about how dangerous it is to watch "TV" while driving, this is typically "talking head" kind of stuff.  Unfortunately the iPhone won't continue to play video podcast audio with the screen locked so....

If you are reading this, you're probably fairly geeky and thinking, "What?  This is interesting?" And that illustrates my point about how we take this stuff for granted.  This is important thing from a technology adoption standpoint, but tends to make us disinterested in what has become the current technological status quo.  That's perfectly fine, but I'm not sure it's fun.

Think about this from a perspective of just 10 years ago.  In 2000 cell phones did not even have cameras or the ability to store media not to mention stream media from the Internet.  The iPhone and Android phones of today seem commonplace, but it was only three short years ago that the iPhone was first introduced.

How quickly we become jaded and it is only until we talk to people who don't follow the industry like some of us do that we realize just how cool a world it is we are living in. The things we do today were the stuff of science fiction not that long ago.

Here is a trip down memory lane for anyone who might have forgotten how far we have come.

WttF: What Is It?

You're asking yourself, what in the world is WttF?  It's not what you think.

WttF = Welcome to the Future

I have been mulling this over for a while.  I think that most of us who are a bit geekier than the average person take technology for granted.  That is a little sad because we miss out on that feeling of wonder that your average person might experience.  But every now and then it just strikes me that the thing I've been doing for days or weeks without a second thought are just incredible when you think about it in terms of what could be done last year, 10 years ago or whenever.  I intend to post these realizations here with the WttF tagline.

Busch Stadium Miniature

Busch Stadium Miniature, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

Home of the Cardinals. They're no Cubs, but I think they are OK with that.

Tekken Movie Trailer

I love the Tekken and I'm looking forward to a movie based on the game even though I don't expect it to be a good one.  Here is a sample of what we have to look forward to.

Tekken Movie Trailer
Uploaded by teasertrailer. - Full seasons and entire episodes online.

Google Wave to Google Me?

I've been thinking about what Google could do with Google Wave technologies since the standalone product has been killed.  I have also been thinking about what the best way to handle blog posts, Flickr updates, my new Twitter account and Google Buzz.  I guess I let the streams cross and you know what happens when you do that.

So Google has talked about getting into the Social Networking game with something that everyone has been calling Google Me.  Personally, I am looking forward to seeing what that is.  I am a little nervous that it will be  technically superior, well engineered product with very little character.  It is going to need some style to succeed, IMO.  They have also said that they are not looking to replicate Facebook (thank goodness).  So what might that look like?

Google does two things very well.  Search and advertising.  Search brings people in and ads help pay the bills.  One could make the argument that Search = Aggregation.  Add to that other Google aggregators like Google News and Google Reader and you get some idea of the scope of the assets at their disposal to lure people in.  People have eyes and eyes are perfect for viewing advertisements.

So what if, instead of building a social network from the bottom up, they take parts of what they already have and mash them up with parts that other people already have in a way that lets users build out their own social hubs.

Every time Facebook tweaks the interface, there is a great wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Groups are formed, petitions are signed and it's a huge mess.  What if you could still use Facebook as your social networking engine, but tailor the interface to suit you?

What about other tools?  How about a Twitter engine or a WordPress engine?

You are probably asking yourself, "Why would Google do this when they have competing products like Buzz and Blogger?"  Advertising.  I'm not sure Google really cares  much about Blogger or Buzz except as a way to attract eyes for ad views.  So if you prefer Twitter, that's cool.  Keep using it.  But use some Google gateway to both feed and consume it and, oh, by the way, maybe you would might be interested in clicking this link for Himalayan Goat Jerky.

What's in it for the engine providers?  Users, resources and revenue.  Google has a huge user base.  Larger than Facebook's even.  There could be some value in competing to be the best-in-class engine.  Then Google as a gateway communicating via APIs and services would seem to me to be less resource intensive than these other services presenting 100% of the UI to their customers.  They could reduce some of the infrastructure load and allow them to concentrate resources on their core services.  And then maybe Google works out a deal with these other companies for some percentage of the advertising revenue.

Google Wave did a lot of things well.  It was extensible and highly interactive.  So Waves become Information Channels and now I have a one-stop shop for my entire online experience.  I could have search (Google), mail (Gmail), communication (Google Voice), social (Facebook, Buzz, Twitter, etc.), news (Google News, RSS/Blogs) and media (YouTube, Google Audio?) in one place.  Would that be compelling?

Obviously, I don't know.  I'm just dreaming.  If I were any good a this, I would be a billionaire by now.  Would it be difficult to do?  Sounds like it would be a major feat of tech engineering to pull off.  But then again, that's what Google is good at.

The Sun Breaks Through

The Sun Breaks Through, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

Another shot from southern Illinois.

This was a good test case for trying out the Topaz Simplify filter.  So after some curve adjustments, I applied the filter and then blended some of the original details back in.  I like the effect since it really emphasizes the shape of the leaves and reduces the tree trunks to simple, dark bars.  I could get all existential on you, but I won't.  ;)

The Camera Lens Mug

And how cool is this?!

The Camera Lens Mug

Official Google Blog: Update on Google Wave

Sad news for the handful of us who actually used (or tried to use) Google Wave.  It's going away.

This is an example of typical Google, IMO.  Strong technology with weak marketing.  I don't believe they made it compelling enough for people to use.  From an engineering standpoint it was a great tool that could be used for many different things.  The questions that people had were along the lines of, "Why should I use Google Wave when I already use <tool or group of tools> to accomplish the same thing?  What makes it better?"

Bottom line is that its flexibility was its strength, but flexibility was seen as lack of focus which led to it being underutilized.  And much like any non-Facebook social networking site, if the people you want to collaborate with aren't a part of the community, you're pretty much sitting home alone on Saturday night.

Farewell, Wave!  We hardly knew you.  :(

Official Google Blog: Update on Google Wave

iPhone 4 Photography

Butterfly on Brick, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

They say the best camera is the one you have with you. With previous iPhones I was not so sure about that. One of the reasons I went ahead with an iPhone 4 was for the improved camera and I've not been disappointed. It is way more capable than I am.

I did crop this image a little, but otherwise it is as the phone captured it.

Carrying the new phone has really made me more inclined to take more pictures. And that can't be a bad thing.

Lady Blackbird: Adventures in the Wild Blue Yonder

There are a few interesting things about the following link.  First, it's steampunk and I like the steampunk.  Next, it is apparently a role playing module.  And it's free.  Finally, there is some neat artwork to be enjoyed.

Lady Blackbird: Adventures in the Wild Blue Yonder

The Longest Photographic Exposures in History [itchy i]

I so want to try something like this.

The Longest Photographic Exposures in History - The Latest - itchy i

Edward Jones Dome Miniature

Edward Jones Dome Miniature, originally uploaded by Thomas Gehrke.

The good ol' Edward Jones Dome, home of the St. Louis Rams (my team even though they've not been on top of their game for a while now).

Still trying to perfect my tilt-shift skills by working with depth maps in Photoshop.