Pixels Don’t Matter Anymore

Update: a way better explanation from PaintCode

Auto Adjust iPhone 6+

click for full pixel size of iPhone 6+ screenshot

Is the iPhone 6+ 2208×1242 or 1920×1080? Turns out the answer is both. The iPhone 6+ renders 414×736 points @3X for an overall rendering context of 2208×1242 which it then scales to 1920×1080 to display on screen, just like “More Space” works on retina MacBook Pros, except there isn’t a “Pixel Perfect” option for the obsessive among us as far as I know. At the ridiculously high DPI of the display there is likely no perceivable effect.

I wonder which of two paths the iPhone 6S+/7 takes based on this information (and iPads for that matter). Do we start seeing a retina MacBook Pro like UI scaling feature in the preferences (not just text) or is this merely a stopgap while they figure out how to fit 2208×1242 on a 5.5″ screen at the same price as 1080p. I’m going to make the assumption that if they were truly targeting 1080p from the beginning for pixel perfect 1080p video then the iPhone 6 would have a 720p display and do similar scaling from a 667x375pt 1334×750@2X rendering context.

native on the left, downscaled on the right

native on the left, downscaled on the right

Either way, this scaling feature was going to be baked into the hardware/OS for better rending (i.e., not “nearest neighbor”) for apps that have not been updated for the new screen sizes, so it likely wasn’t the end of the world if this change in panels was made late in the game.

Eton FRX Emergency Products Review

FRX4Logo
After an announcement at CES and a few shipping delays, I did eventually receive my Eton FRX4 and FRX5, updates to their existing FRX2 and FRX3 emergency products. I intentionally skipped over purchasing the FRX1 as it does not include a USB port for phone charging but is otherwise an FRX2.

All four products contain at least

  • Handcrank
  • Solar panel
  • AM/FM/Weather radio
  • USB out for charging cellphones
  • USB in for charging themselves
  • Headphones
  • A built in speaker
  • Telescoping antenna
  • Flashlight

So any one of them and you technically will be somewhat better off than having no way to charge your phone or get the weather in an emergency. However, there is a huge difference in quality in the units that frustratingly isn’t a linear progression, so I’m going to break the review down by feature rather than unit.

FRX2 FRX3 FRX4 FRX5 under tree

As an AM/FM/Weather radio

The FRX2 not only has a dial tuner, it has crappy sound that is not improved by using headphones. I tried to listen to an AM broadcast of a football game and could barely follow it. The FRX3 FRX4 and FRX5 all have a digital tuner and much better built in speaker, although the FRX3 speaker is better than the smaller FRX4. The FRX5 uniquely has S.A.M.E. and weather alerts.

As a flashlight

The FRX3 has two standard LEDS while the FRX2 has three (and a better plastic focusing lens). This makes the FRX2 a better brighter and more directional flashlight. The FRX3 used the third LED spot for a very dim flashing red one.

The FRX4 and FRX5 use an adjustable ultra bright white LED that blows the other two out of the water in outdoor use at night. They are the same in both units. They both also have a pair of dim red LEDs that flash.

The FRX5 uniquely has a diffuse ambient “lantern” light that is also adjustable in brightness. This feature is nice if you don’t have a white wall or ceiling to bounce the flashlight beam off of to illuminate a whole room.

As a crank operated device

Assuming you’re starting from a dead battery, all four devices perform identical here, although the non-digital nature of the FRX2 means you don’t have to hit some minimal capacity to start using the flashlight immediately albeit dimly.

The FRX2/3 contain tiny NiCad batteries that do not hold enough charge to recharge a phone without simultaneously cranking, but do serve as a buffer to provide constant current.

As an alkaline device

The devices except the FRX 2 accept 3 AAA batteries to either power the unit itself or pass the charge along through the USB cable. As AAAs are still findable in an extended power outage (trust me) this is a cool feature, especially if other factors prevent hand crank use (age, RSI) or solar panels (weather, time of year). I personally think it’s wasteful to dump the charge into your phone and would rather save my AAAs for my 2AAA Maglite, but it’s comforting to have the option.

FRX solar panels

As a solar powered device

This is probably the coolest feature of the devices because it lets the device work for you while you’re busy doing something else, and depending on the nature of your situation, that can be a big deal.

As a solar radio

Depending on volume and sun intensity, you can practically break even using the radio all day long on all units.

As a solar phone charger

The FRX2 and FRX3 use NiCad batteries that only serve as a constant current buffer for hand crank charging. The solar panel at least makes sure your buffer is filled and ready for you or the unit is ready.

The FRX4 and FRX5 have much bigger Lithium batteries and much bigger panels to charge them. They CAN be used to collect solar energy during the day to dump into your phone at night. The FRX4 has a 1000mAH battery, while the FRX5 has double that. The iPhone 5S has a 1440mAH battery.

With tablets and larger phones those numbers are worrisomely small, and simply reduce the amount of hand cranking needed on a daily basis rather than eliminate it.
FRX4 water

So I should buy…?

That depends on the number of devices you’ll need to charge in an extended power outage. If you’re staying home during the power outage and not wasting your phone battery by using it for recreation, the cheap subsidized hand cranking of even the FRX2 should be plenty sufficient. If you still have to drive to work (and can get gas, of course) then you probably don’t need anything.

I put velcro on my FRX2 and FRX4 and keep them on the back shelf in the cars, solar panels in a kind of good direction since there is a roof over them. It may seem an odd product to keep in the car but one potential reason for getting stranded is a dead car battery, and if you choose to leave your perfectly functioning but stuck vehicle it’s not like you can take a car battery with you – especially the giant Prius battery that’s half the weight of the car.

Because it’s a better flashlight than anything else (and being the cheapest), I would recommend the FRX 2 for use in individual survival kits, to mostly be forgotten about until you actually need it.

The FRX3 is best suited for someone who doesn’t have a smartphone yet and will actually use it as a radio, emergency or not.

Each household should have one FRX5 mostly for the weather alerts. They’re more likely to make it to you than push notifications. It also has the best speaker. Each full time working adult beyond the first only needs an FRX4 though.

Here is a single affiliate link to Amazon if you would like to benefit me
Eton All-Purpose Weather Alert Radio, FRX4 (Gray)

You may be wondering why I didn’t include rival products, and the answer is they don’t necessarily do any one thing better than the Eton products, and often have a few less features (or just look plain ugly in my book). I did not receive review units from anyone.

If you think you only need a 24 hour solution, I highly recommend Jackery external batteries. The smallest size has 3 times the capacity of the FRX5 and can charge and be charged at the same time, but it’s just a battery. I personally prefer them to extended battery cases.

Why didn’t ebooks race to the bottom too?

Today ebooks still cost around $10, seem to be climbing even. Well, ones from publishers anyway. Indy ebooks are usually a few dollars. This is huge contrast to the App Store, where there aren’t really “publishers” in the same sense of literature. I’m not sure which direction I’d rather see things go in though, probably getting rid of publishers in the music and book business… democratizing content and all. We’ll have to find a different cure for the race to the bottom.

iPads and tablets are still pretty popular

I’m spending this week vacationing with my parents, siblings, and their families this week, and although a few MacBooks made the journey, and all the adults have iPhones, there are more tablets than people if you count the e-ink devices.

It turns out that other than people 5’6″ and under who aren’t nerds prefer the 10″ iPads for just about everything. The 10″ form factor is already “tweener” device for them: neither a phone nor 13″ MacBook.

When my parents use an iPhone to look up something, my dad takes his glasses off, my mother puts her non-prescription glasses on, and both hold it some “perfect” distance from their face. If Apple were to release a larger iPhone, their hope is that it’ll have the same number of points on screen as existing models.

This is not the case with the iPads, which they mostly use while in a reclined chair. The 10″ size seems to be a sweet spot for being able to see the iPad, then being able to see the TV or something else further away without having to switch anything or wait particularly long for their eyes to adjust.

Tablet devices get full websites; making the type of browsing to the types of websites that don’t get updating to responsive designs (or worse – those weird iPhone OS 1 type websites) a breeze.

About Arm MacBooks (again)

http://www.macrumors.com/2014/05/25/arm-mac-magic-trackpad/

In the past, I have said that Arm MacBooks would give us magical amounts of battery life and run cool. And while that may still be true, it’s also currently true of Intel’s offerings (which didn’t used to be the case). Apple’s longest lasting device is no longer the iPad, it’s the 13″ MacBook Air.

I’m officially changing my stance on these rumors to being real but fake “controlled leaks” to punish/scare Intel after they were presumably the weak link in Mac Pro production and the second gen retina MacBook Pros not being available at WWDC last year.

If Intel thinks Apple is serious about the 12″ retina MacBook Air being powered by ARM, Intel may be more willing to either fab ARM chips for iOS devices (which would put them a whole process ahead of Samsung and TSMC) or give Apple earlier processor access of x86 chips in exchange for keeping the Mac lineup entirely x86.

can you take a subcompact Prius c camping?

TL:DR Yes, 2 people, unless you’re one of those “brings the kitchen sink” types.
Prius c Camping

Here’s what I was able to fit into the “trunk” alone:

  • Two 10×8 Tarps
  • One 10×8 Tent
  • One 7×4 Tent*
  • Two Pillows
  • Two Fleece Sleeping Bags
  • Backpack with
    1. Real tent stakes
    2. Hammer
    3. Fishing Tackle + Rod
    4. Paracord
    5. Multitools
    6. Fire starters
    7. Water bottles
    8. Metal cups
    9. other miscellaneous basic survival gear

*the smaller tent fits into the larger tent for additional heat retention in case it’s 10°F colder than you packed for, or it’s too hot for the larger tent with tarps on and under it and you just need a bug-free space to sleep.

That’s pretty much all you’ll need for a typical trip at a state park where running water and fire pits with grills are provided, leaving the back seat available (folded up or down) for clothes and a cooler and whatever you choose to sleep on.

As far as sleeping IN the prius c. No. Regular Prius it’s very easy but the trunk and folded seats aren’t level in the c, and even then, their total combined length is insufficient for even someone as short as me. You can sleep in it as well as you can sleep in any car with reclining front seats, but you’re not getting a bed like you could with larger hatchbacks.

Panic’s Mac App Store Strawman

Panic has put up a whiny post detailing why Coda 2.5 won’t be on the Mac App Store because of growing pains with the sandbox.

That’s all well and good, except, well, read the “features” that need to break out of the sandbox. Namely, accessing files and folders on your local Mac you don’t have ownership over (have we forgotten how chown works?), its built in Terminal emulator (I’m on a fucking Mac, I have one of those already), and Get Info having chmod access to local files…

See a trend? It’s all regarding a bunch of local stuff I don’t need Panic to touch. Real world web development takes place on remote servers as much as locally. Even in the tightest sandbox, it’s not the end of the world to simply tell your local Mac to allow SSH and SFTP access to your web root. This, btw, is the only way to access your local mysql server in ANY app. You can’t just open its storage root and expect to update tables.

Panic, please stop whining about stupid features I don’t care about, and maybe try enhancing cool stuff, and maybe make the world’s first MSSQL client written in Cocoa and add value to your app instead of trying to blame Apple for wasting time on features I don’t need that you knew were going to be a problem.

Why did I call this a strawman? Because it sounds like they might be using sandboxing as justification for leaving the MAS when in reality it’s for economic reasons. That would be perfectly fine, just be honest about it.

/rant

Microsoft isn’t making Nintendo’s mistakes anymore

Microsoft announced it will support writing Android and iOS development right within visual studio. Sort Of. It’s using cross platform rather than native development. But still, this is quite different from the Microsoft of my youth, that outside of the Mac BU, simply didn’t acknowledge anything outside their own universe.

If you’ve looked into Azure, you might’ve noticed that one of your development choices is on a full LAMP stack; all 4 letters of LAMP, Linux, Apache, mysql, and php. It’s not php running through IIS on a Windows machine. The only Microsoft product involved is presumably Hyper-V at a layer outside your VM. Mac native apps Coda and Sequel Pro have no problem connecting.

Even Sharepoint 2013 “just works” on all modern browsers.

Office on iPad exists now.

Nintendo, by contrast, is still content to slowly bleed money on consoles that aren’t selling. Still content to live in the world of yesteryear where Nintendo is unquestionably vertical, rather than take advantage of the license to print money that official ports and emulators on other platforms could potentially bring them. They (sort of) seem to understand that graphics upgrades to their platinum titles every generation is what we want. They’re hit or miss on continuing those legacy titles with new games…

Accidental Camping Bag

I guess this counts as a box... she jumped in as soon as I unzipped it

I guess this counts as a box… she jumped in as soon as I unzipped it

On Easter, as I was showing off my Prius C to my family of Ford Grand Marquis owners, my nephew asked about the handful of survival supplies I had in the trunk; notably a telescoping fishing rod and a small folding chair backpack with Nalgene bottles in the pockets. He asked if I was going camping soon and I somehow came up with the response “no, it’s in case I go camping accidentally” (to which he could come up with several plausible scenarios; he’s a smart kid).

As I continue outfitting the bag (and a duplicate bag to keep in the other car) the term has stuck, which I like more than “bug out bag” or “survival kit”. I’ve tested a few supplies at home and in the wild already and will eventually list and review them here, starting with the chair/bag itself.

Disclaimer: I’m 5’6″ and my gear is intentionally minimal. The chair’s weight limit is in the low 200’s. Larger individuals my find this too small.

As a chair, it’s fairly simple. It doesn’t have a back, but it’s not the end of the world. You’re not going to nap or read in it for an extended period of time, but it does get you off the ground when you need to focus on activities like readying fishing tackle or sewing. One advantage to not having a back to the chair is you can sit on it either way. I prefer having the supports and backpack off to my side like a director’s chair. Chairs with backs “force” them in front and behind you.

As a backpack, it’s very wearable, at least on my frame. One nice feature that the chair adds to the usefulness as a backpack is that you can open the chair and it actually makes the backpack contents easier to access, rather than more difficult. The side pockets for water bottles are sized large enough to hold Nalgene bottles with steel cups on them (reviews for those coming eventually). The 48 oz bottles are almost as tall as the backpack so I hold the tops in place with a silicone hair tie, but I’m sure a lightweight carabiner would work well too and be easier to undo.

The backpack has a flap compartment that goes over the whole thing. It’s thin and can hold something flat-ish like an iPad mini or Kindle Paperwhite, but I just keep a few large freezer bags in it to increase the water resistance of the pack below it. Putting anything in this compartment, even the minuscule Kindle, makes the pack harder to get into. That’s why I prefer to use it just as a flap.

My goal is a for a filled pack (without water in the bottles but including the weight of itself, including the chair) to be well under 20 lbs, and so far that’s been vey easy, especially if you cheat and take the heavy multi tool out and put it on your belt.

Review: Sony FDR-AX100/B

Marketed as “4K for $2K”, is the first affordable 4K camera suitable for anyone other than bleeding edge early adaptors like myself?

Bottom: FDR-AX100/B, HDR-CX560V, HDR-HC9 Top: SPKCXB for HDR-CX560V

Bottom: FDR-AX100/B, HDR-CX560V, HDR-HC9
Top: SPKCXB for HDR-CX560V

A quick aside: buying a few generations of Sony camcorders has given me extra power adapters, which is cool, even though they also charge over USB. The proprietary connection to use the controls on the sports bubble is also less proprietary when it fits all your cameras. Just like having a house full of MagSafe adapters and Lightning cables…

A few little annoyances:

Rolling Shutter

For that jiggly, “Shot with an iPhone” look…

American trains aren't THAT fast

American trains aren’t THAT fast

In this shot, I'm panning with the slower commuter train. The effect is visible on the viaduct.

In this shot, I’m panning with the slower commuter train. The effect is visible on the viaduct.

No Onboard Storage / only one SD slot

Particularly annoying given that you need a 90MB/s card to not go insane waiting on this camera to start recording. My last camera had 96GB built in. Both of these have noticeable consequences. First, since there’s only one slot, you can’t start shooting until the camera finishes saving the still you just took. Even with the fastest card I could buy this is still a noticeable limitation. The camera does have some method of taking multiple shots while it’s still writing out to the memory card, but you can’t hit Record until it’s done.

The other reason this is frustrating should solve itself over time, and that is that as of right now you can only get a 64GB 90MB/s write SDXC card.

No GPS

I wouldn’t mind this if my previous camera, the Sony HDR-CX560V, didn’t have it.

What’s great about it

  • Excellent Manual Controls
  • Auto controls don’t over expose (white sky) as much as my previous cameras.
  • Minimal chromatic aberration
  • Good low light performance
  • Great 20MB stills
  • Shoots in .MP4; no “Importing” step in your workflow.

One final thought

Unless you have a 3-CCD camera (this isn’t), the frame size you get isn’t really “real” because of the (usually Bayer) filter used to get RGB out of a single CCD. This is why when you look at pixels 1:1 on cameras it looks like they’re a median blur. This has only a 20MP sensor, with a frame size of 5964×3352, which is only about 2984×1676 “real” pixels. A 4K frame would need 33,177,600 pixels (33MP) on a single CCD. So whether you can call it “real” 4K is up for debate, just like whether or not 1440×1080 wide pixel interlaced miniDV frames counted as “HD”… it never ends