The best portable gadget ever
By Alex KIDMAN
Is absolutely no use whatsoever if you forget to bring it with you. I got a rather solid lesson in that last weekend.
Last Saturday night, I attended a WWE Smackdown! show here in Sydney. A quick disclaimer: I attended as a guest of Acer in their corporate box; Acer has naming rights to the arena and its own corporate box relatively high up. Yeah, I enjoy watching pro wrestling. It's the finest fake sport yet devised. Not what I'm discussing here, and I'll have that argument with you over a beer any time you like. You're buying.
Anyway, I took my slightly-breaking-down Canon 30D DSLR with me to get a few shots for the private album. At least, I took it as far as the entry turnstile where people were being checked for food, drink and as I discovered, cameras with removable lenses. They're a no-no, at least according to the rules of the WWE, who want to control all photography access to their events. I do get that if I was sitting in the photography pit, but from a tiered box seat all the way up the top of the arena? Not wanting to walk all the way back to the car, I took my chances with checking it in at the cloak room, which has probably never seen a cloak in its life, and headed back in.
Damn. Blast. Particularly blast, because my normal modus operandi is to chuck a point and shoot camera into my main camera bag, just in case I have some kind of catastrophic failure. Except, naturally, this time. The whole issue with "cameras with removable lenses" makes me wonder what (if anything) the door staff would do with a Micro Four Thirds camera, many of which I could slip into a pocket without them noticing, and then whack an enormous zoom onto at my leisure. The gratingly American disclaimer played over the speakers as I walked in tried to say that no photography would be allowed, but there was fat chance of that happening based on the number of camera flashes going off. I could say why camera flash in an area is usually a bad idea, but I'd be stepping too far into David's Produce territory there.
Instead, I'll detail what I did next. My good camera was close by, but it was in the cloak room, out of reach. So what I did was improvise with the gadgetry that I did have on me at the time.
In this case I was carrying two mobile phones. An iPhone 3GS, which is my regular communication phone, and a review iPhone 4. I've got to admit it felt a little odd bringing out the iPhone 4 in public, simply because I wasn't trying to show off. It's still new enough that there's a big posing element to it. I used the iPhone 4 not out of desire to pose, but because it's meant to have better low-light ability and optics than the 3GS. That much was true, but this was something of a baptism of fire for the poor thing. Even with "better" performance, the peculiarities of lighting and position meant that most shots blew exposure out horribly. The best I could manage was a quick panorama shot or two, and the best of those were taken during intermission when the house lights were up and the poor iPhone camera wasn't trying to adjust to a bath of light over the ring.
iPhone Zoom. It sucks.
So, I did the best I could, all the time cursing I hadn't packed that compact. They're not the greatest cameras, but I'd have a lot more fine tuning ability and a zoom that would actually work. Yes, IOS4 does bring camera zoom into play, but it's woefully awful; a physical iPhone Zoom lens I reviewed recently was much better, but predictably, it was also back on the test labs bench. Getting creative (and ever so slightly naughty according to that same American disclaimer) I captured a few brief seconds of video, simply because the iPhone's camera adjusted focus and balance levels dynamically that way. With post cropping of still images from my short seconds of video, I was able to get shots that were a little better and more dynamic.
Strictly speaking, this is breaking the rules...
But it's the best shot I've got to get the best shot I can get
Not great, but better than nothing. As if to prove that the best gadget ever is the one you're carrying, two rows down from me the Country Manager for AMD Australia/New Zealand, Brian Slattery was typing in a full show report, in real time... from an iPhone. Even if you're not into Pro Wrestling, just looking at the length of that column shows a level of dedication that few possess. Dedication and insanely fast tapping fingers, especially as he was frequently stopping to cheer.
For what it's worth, the iPhone 4's camera is OK for a mobile phone camera, which means it's still only vaguely adequate in any real camera sense. That much I learned on the spot, but what I'll keep with me are the lesser images, and the reminder that no matter how portable any given gadget gets, it's absolutely useless if it's sitting at home when I need it with me.
|| 2 feedbacks »||Permalink|
What happens if the backup fails after the working copy dies?
By David HAGUE
My storage needs are pretty simple and regimented. I have two NAS devices (network attached storage) with 1 terabyte in each as permanent storage with one doing duty as a raw footage (video) holder and the other acting as a general backup of day to day stuff. Completed projects are archived off to DVD, if they are kept at all.
To date, this system has worked perfectly for me.
Over the last week though, my RAW footage NAS has decided to play silly buggers, with a permanently flashing blue light and the only way to turn it off being pull the plug. Investigations tell me that the blue light thing is symptomatic of “a long process in operation”. Well after four days of this, I am pretty well convinced that no operation on around ½ TB of data could take that long, so tried to get in (again) via RAIDAR to view the drives. This time I get a message suggesting the drives are kaput.
This is somewhat annoying. I thought the whole idea of RAID systems was to minimise this possibility, so to have both drives die at the same time could be a tragedy of monumental proportions.
Luckily however, unlike quite a few people I know, I NEVER reuse a tape that has been used for a project. For “play around” stuff I have 4 tapes marked for just that purpose, but holidays, professional projects and Important Stuff, my tapes are carefully labelled and locked away.
And that will happen with even more care now.
|| Send feedback »||Permalink|
Forget in-flight calls: let me read an e-book!
By Ian GRAYSON
The news that ACMA has given the green light to airlines to allow mobile phone usage during flights was enough to have me reaching for the ear plugs.
The carriers are now free to investigate whether or not they want to allow passengers to make and receive calls while cruising above the clouds. Let's hope they reach the right conclusion.
But as well as causing much angst about how soon we'll be surrounded by people shouting sweet nothings to loved ones on the ground, it also served to remind me of one of the more annoying aspects of current in-flight restrictions. Why on earth do I have to turn by e-book reader off during take-off and landing?
The logic has always been that electronic devices can interfere with an aircraft's navigation and operational systems. But how on earth could an e-reader cause such a problem. The little thing only draws a minute amount of current each time an electronic page is turned. Other than that, it just sits there quietly displaying its e-ink pages.
If an aircraft can be affected by such a device, are we really sure we want to be sitting on it in the first place?
Come on ACMA. Rather than moving to shatter one of the last vestiges of calm and phone-free silence that exist, why not instead turn your attention to e-books.
Thousands of readers will thank you for it.
|| 2 feedbacks »||Permalink|
The Golden Rules of writing tech "Round-Ups"
By Adam TURNER
Reviewing a dozen of anything at the same time is generally a nightmare.
Tech journos might get to play with cool toys, but mostly the life of a product reviewer is far less glamorous than it might seem. Testing one product can be tricky enough, but testing a bunch of them can drive you mad - especially when you're dealing with bleeding edge technology.
In ten years of tech reviewing, the last five as a freelancer, I've learned a few things about group product tests (also known as a "Round-Up"). As I settled in this week to run a group test of Android smartphones, I started to post a few words of warning on Twitter, using the hashtag #ShitIveLearnedTheHardWay. Colleagues soon jumped in with their pearls of wisdom. Our musings quickly grew into quite a long list of advice which I thought people might find of interest. I know it would have helped me along my way when I was first starting out.
Round-Up Rule 1: Group tests are more trouble than they're worth, that's why editors outsource them
Round-Up Rule 2: Know when to say no to a group test commission, and which editors are good to work with
Round-Up Rule 3: @David_Neiger Don't test heavy or bulky products (eg. printers, large screen TVs) unless you love your physio
Round-Up Rule 4: Read the brief carefully & plan ahead. Reread brief as you go - aloud if necessary
Round-Up Rule 5: Allow at least week for all gear to arrive, despite promises from vendors/PR/couriers
Round-Up Rule 6: Pay mbe.com.au to deal with couriers, to avoid #PunchCourierInTheFace (the @alexkidman clause)
Round-Up Rule 6a: @alexkidman At least 1 product will be sent to the publication rather than you. The heaviest one (Freelancer sub-clause)
Round-Up Rule 6b: @David_Neiger Products sent to the publication will disappear from the planet only to re-emerge after deadline
Round-Up Rule 6c: Stuff sent to mag will disappear forever, or be stolen in transit (with @coaten)
Round-Up Rule 7: If one in a million are DOA, you'll get that one
Round-Up Rule 8: @alexkidman Expect cables and other important stuff to be missing
Round-Up Rule 9: Expect gear to turn up with only US power plugs
Round-Up Rule 10: Clear a dedicated work space ie. not the kitchen table
Round-Up Rule 11: Allow extra time, clear yr schedule & don't leave complicated stuff til last
Round-Up Rule 12: Photograph the contents of every box before you start
Round-Up Rule 13: Get right tools for job - don't be afraid to spend $$ on gear that makes life easier
Round-Up Rule 14: Cheap powerboards r like dodgy mates - keep plenty around but don't rely on them
Round-Up Rule 15: Take lots of notes, including logins & passwords - and keep notes forever
Round-Up Rule 15a: @alexkidman If someone else set the password, try "Password" and "VendorName" first.
Round-Up Rule 16: NEVER assume you know everything, plus don't take the vendor/PR's word on anything
Round-Up Rule 17: Network-locked gear is a pain in the arse
Round-Up Rule 17a: @neerav Demand SIMs for every phone
Round-Up Rule 18: Battery tests are a pain - be methodical and double-check b4 walking away for 24 hrs
Round-Up Rule 19: Don't get cocky - if it all seems too easy, you've probably missed something important
Round-Up Rule 20: If y'r gettin friend to help, hope they don't have bad reaction to meds & need hospital- slows u down #TrueStory
Round-Up Rule 21: Feature tables are a pain in the arse and take longer than you think
Round-Up Rule 22: @alexkidman High Res product photos will take 4x longer to source than most product tests actually take
Round-Up Rule 22b: Good product photography is harder than it looks, don't do it unless you know your shit
Round-Up Rule 23: When u start seeing compression artifacts & 3D crosstalk whilst driving to shops, y'r in "the zone"
Round-Up Rule 24: You always go through that moment of panic when all seems lost - learn to deal with it
Round-Up Rule 25: @David_Neiger No matter what you do, one or more vendors will end up screaming to the editor
Round-Up Rule 26: @David_Neiger Vendors have no clue where products are - you'll be asked to return gear already sent or never received
Round-Up Rule 27: @David_Neiger The return satchel supplied by a PR will never be big enough to fit the product #itstrue
Round-Up Rule 28: @alexkidman At least 3 new replacement products will come out the day your story goes live. Learn to love it.
Round-Up Rule 29: Don't get sucked into Twitter when you should be working
|| 3 feedbacks »||Permalink|
Apple speed-bumps desktop lines, debuts Magic Trackpad
By Stephen WITHERS
I wasn't surprised that Apple announced revisions to the iMac line, having seen some clearance sale adverts from Apple resellers in the last week or so.
Apple probably didn't warn its resellers, but they have become accustomed to reading the entrails of stock figures and delivery times.
Anyway, faster processors, memory and graphics are nothing unusual in a 'speed bump' update like this. For most customers, support for SDXC memory cards is probably a 'future proofing' move as they don't yet own a digital video or still camera that support these extra-high capacity cards.
64GB SDXC cards currently sell for around $A300 - expensive, but about half the price of a similar amount of memory in the form of multiple 4GB SDHC cards. According to Panasonic, a 64GB card can store around 8.5 hours of HD video at maximum quality.
Some people are probably getting excited about the Mac Pro refresh that offers various CPU combinations from a single 2.8GHz quad-core Xeon to dual 2.93GHz six-core Xeons (prices start at $A3499), or the 27in LED Cinema display (2560 x 144 pixels, iSight, microphone, speakers, powered USB hub and integrated MagSafe charger, shipping in September).
But to me, the most interesting part of Apple's announcement was the $A99 Magic Trackpad, an external version of the multi-touch trackpad that's been part of the MacBook family for some time. I've been expecting an equivalent for desktop models ever since multi-touch arrived. I'll have more to say about it when (if?) I have a chance to test one.
|| Send feedback »||Permalink|