The iPhone 4S Camera

I’ve been meaning to do some iPhone 4S camera tests for a while now, and rather than wait and wait while I come up with a scientific method, I thought I’d just do a few shots and post them here. Early and Often, right?

Each photos links to the Flickr version you can view it at various sizes. None of the photos have been retouched at all.

iPhone Test 01
Normal iPhone 4S photo with direct light.

iPhone Test 01 (HDR)
HDR iPhone 4S photo with direct light.

iPhone Test 02
Normal iPhone 4S photo with soft light.

iPhone Test 02 (HDR)
HDR iPhone 4S photo with soft light.

For each shot the iPhone was on a tripod, and an overheard light consisting of a single bulb was used. (It’s a large high wattage bulb from an old photostat machine.) For the soft light shots, I put an umbrella in front of the light. I used Apple’s default Camera app that comes on the iPhone. All were shot on the white sweep I use for all my tabletop stuff. (If you’ve seen my Flickr stream, you’ve seen plenty of shots on that sweep.)

iPhone Tripod Mount
Experimental iPhone Tripod Mount

This photo of my “Experimental iPhone Tripod Mount” was taken (handheld) with my Nikon D40. If you wanted to compare the two, the iPhone 4S is supposedly an 8 Megapixel camera, while the Nikon is a 6 Megapixel camera. Size isn’t everything of course. Well, the Nikon does have a bigger lens, so that helps quite a bit. The Nikon also shoots in RAW, and yes, this shot has been edited quite a bit, but hey, that’s what I do with RAW photos. (And I mainly took this shot to show the set-up I used.)

When I get ambitious again, I’ll set up two tripods, one with the iPhone, and one with the Nikon, and do duplicate shots of various objects. Until then, enjoy these… I’m off to work on my Experimental iPhone Tripod Mount Version 2.0


A Clock Works…


Co. Design is a great site for people who love good design. Some of the stuff they cover would be called “high design” which is sort of like, well, stuff that may be really cool, but also really expensive, and chances are, you probably don’t need it.

This Jasper Morrison Alarm Clock is a clock that looks cool, and probably even has some cool features, and the article suggests that using an iPhone for your alarm clock is silly. I disagree.

I’ve got a pretty nice alarm clock, an old Sony Dream Machine from the mid-1990s, with dual alarms, a nice, big display, and a radio built in. The problem is, it’s on my wife’s side of the bed, and I get up earlier than she does. If I use it as an alarm clock, it will wake her up (not good) and it also requires me to either lean way over her to turn it off (not good) or get out of bed to turn it off (also not good.)

So I actually do have a clock on my side of the bed, but it’s a simple X10 controller and it tells me what time it is. As for an alarm, the iPhone is the best solution for me so far. I don’t use any 3rd party alarm app, as the built-in alarm works fine. I set the volume all the way down at night, and put the phone in silent mode. The phone vibrating is just enough to wake me up and not wake up the wife. The iPhone alarm is also easy to set, and I get up at different times depending on the day of the week, so that’s all preset. Since I also plug my iPhone in to charge it each night, it’s a win-win situation. Any notification apps I use tend to have the concept of “quiet time” and I almost never get messages/interruptions in the middle of the night. It works quite well for me, and I’m typically not the sort of person who uses my phone for everything, as I’ve still got a GPS I prefer to use, as well as an iPod I prefer to use.

I’m interested in what other people do… Do you have an alarm clock, or has your phone taken over that task?


The Reeder Value


I tried Reeder on the iPhone last year, and I wasn’t immediately in love with it, it’s alright, but I don’t really do too much feed reading on my phone nowadays. Still it’s nice to have an RSS aggregator on my phone, and it’s the one I liked the best. It was $1.99 at the time (it’s $2.99 now) and I was willing to pay that without thinking much about it. It would probably be a better experience on a newer iPhone (I’ve got the 3G) but then, what wouldn’t be a better experience?

I mentioned that I don’t do too much feed reading on my phone nowadays, and that’s true, but I think a large part of it is that I now do a ton of feed reading on the iPad. In fact, on a lazy Sunday morning I’ve been know to spend a good hour or two catching up on my reading just as someone may have read a newspaper in the olden days when they used to print newspapers.

On the iPad I used MobileRSS for a while and like it well enough, except when they redesigned the entire UI during an upgrade. In reading some of the reviews, I kept seeing mentions that it ripped off the design of Reeder. I ended up trying Reeder on the iPad, and while it took me a little while to get used to it, I started to like it. At $4.99 for the iPad version, I grabbed it right away, and I really do love it now. I’d estimate that feed reading on the iPad accounts for more than 50% of what I use the device for.

I normally use Google Reader in Firefox, with some help from Stylish, to make it a bit prettier, but when the Reeder for Mac beta came out, I gave it a shot, and I liked it. I still didn’t do too much reading on desktop (or laptop) as compared to the iPad, but it was nice to have. The user experience is much better than the browser. That said, I was worried it would come out of beta and require a purchase to keep using it. Well, perhaps I wasn’t worried so much as concerned about the unknown price.

Well, Reeder for Mac is out, and it’s $9.99. Now, I know I’m cheap, but I sort of feel like it just isn’t worth it (at least not for me.) I mean, if I weigh how much I use my Mac for feed reading, versus how much I use my iPad for the task, it just doesn’t measure up. If it was $4.99 on the Mac, I’d probably be tempted to grab it. Of course I’ve already spent about $7 for the iPad and iPhone versions, so maybe that’s another reason I’m not ready to kick down another $10 to have another version of it running on yet another device.

Reeder is a really nice feed reader though, and I love it on the iPad at $4.99, but I’m just not convinced it would be worth $9.99 on the Mac. (Again, I’m basing this on my own reading habits.)




I’ve become quite the fan of Processing. When I first started to dig into the Arduino world, I turned to my old friend Perl to deal with Arduino<->Computer communication, but quickly discovered that Processing was an ideal environment for such a thing.

Perl is great (you know, IMHO and all that) but the main appeal for me has always been in Perl’s data processing capabilities, and having CPAN and a module for almost everything. Perl is fun, but it’s not FUN. I’ve dabbled with generating graphics with Perl using GD and SVG modules, but it’s not anywhere near the area known as fun.

Processing, in my mind, is built for fun. So what is Processing?

Processing is an open source programming language and environment for people who want to create images, animations, and interactions. Initially developed to serve as a software sketchbook and to teach fundamentals of computer programming within a visual context, Processing also has evolved into a tool for generating finished professional work. Today, there are tens of thousands of students, artists, designers, researchers, and hobbyists who use Processing for learning, prototyping, and production.

Processing sometimes gets called a “multimedia programming language” and is used quite a bit by artists and designers, and probably much less by hardcore software developers. Check out OpenProcessing for some great example sketches.


My own sketches are not very impressive yet, but as I said, Processing it a lot of fun. It’s reminiscent of the olden days of graphics on the Apple ][ where you plotted things out in HIRES graphics mode but, you know, way more advanced.

It’s pretty easy to build Processing sketches that respond to sensors connected to a microcontroller like an Arduino (see Accelerometer Art) and that’s something I’ll definitely be exploring more of in the future.


Processing runs on top of Java, or is a subset of Java, or whatever. This is great because you can easily create a Processing sketch that can run on Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux, and even create a standalone application for each platform. (It’s that promise of Java we had long ago!) But the real excitement is that the latest version of Processing lets you target Android as a platform. Supposedly you can build an app in Processing and get it into the Android Marketplace. (I’m not aiming to get anything into an ‘App Store’ but just want to run my own apps on my own devices, as mentioned in my Android vs. iPhone post.)

And speaking of the iPhone, it looks like iProcessing and Processing.js may be able to get Processing sketches running on iOS… neat! (Processing.js is also on my TO DO list. I’ve toyed with it briefly and it’s pretty amazing.)

One of my complaints about this “new world of Apps” on phones and tablets and non-traditional devices is that there is too much of a barrier to entry to building things that run on them. I’m hoping Processing might help bring that barrier down a bit.

Update: It seems May is Processing Month. I didn’t know! Now I feel compelled to do more.


Android vs. iPhone

I’m often torn between the elegance of the Apple User Experience and the freedom offered by, well… pretty much anyone but Apple.

As you probably know, I’m a pretty big supporter of open source (hardware and software) and I’m also a Mac user, and more recently, an iOS user. Apple is pretty damn good at providing a great user experience with their hardware and software, and as it’s often said, most time things “just work” which is important to me, because I use Apple products to make a living.

As far as the freedom thing, I love freedom, and Apple isn’t the leading provider of freedom, so I live a life of conflict. Most of us do in some way… so be it.

As for the iPhone, there’s a lot about it to like, and truth be told, there are things to not like. I’m currently running an iPhone 3G, and I’d probably be a bit more up on the iPhone if I were running an iPhone 4. (The other day someone was recommending an iPhone to someone and said “It will change your life” which may sound far-fetched, but depending on how you use it, this can be true.)

The Android platform does hold some appeal, but I’m not sure if it’s enough for me to jump ship. I mean, Android has it’s issues as well, so I don’t even know that it can easily be said that one platform beats out the other.

Wired’s got an article about How the Android Ecosystem Threatens the iPhone which is worth a read. The graphs are worth commenting on.

Android vs. iPhone

As my disclaimer, I am not a “switcher,” and by that I mean, I was not a Windows user who eventually replaced it with a Mac. I’ve been using Apple hardware since the early 1980s and my first Mac was a IIvx. That said, I lived through the dark times of Apple in the 1990s, including Amelio, the clones, rumors of Apple’s death, etc. With that perspective, these numbers don’t look scary. There were (and are) way more manufacturers of “PCs” than “Macs” and 90% of the “PC manufacturers” made crap. Cheap crap that competed on price, each trying to be a bit cheaper than the other because they were all basically the same. Some were bigger/better than others (Dell) and most of them got around to following Apple’s innovations in hardware eventually. So the real question is, out of those 170 devices running Android, how many are awe-inspiring, and real competition to the iPhone?

Android vs. iPhone

Again, I’m no financial wizard, but to me I assume that 30% that goes to Apple helps maintain the iPhone ecosystem, the cost of running the App Store, future R&D, product development, etc. Plus, people hate carriers. I want as little of my money going to AT&T, Verizon, etc. as possible. If Apple gets it, I think I prefer that. As for the Android App Store, it goes to Verizon. What has Verizon ever done for you? What if you are a competitor to Verizon? And who runs the Android App Store, Google? Does it cost them nothing to run it? No, they’re just making their money elsewhere… (Advertising? Yup, we need more of that.)

Android vs. iPhone

This is the one I may be the most “meh” about. It seems to show the number of apps for Android increasing, until someday it will surpass the numbers of the iPhone. Again, if you’ve lived in the Apple world long enough, you probably remember back when the argument was “Windows has more applications!” and it was true, but it was also true that 95% of them sucked. Sure, there were 200 text editors for Windows, and if you were lucky, 2 or 3 of them were good enough to use. Meanwhile, Mac OS had BBEdit and tons of devoted fans. There were other text editors, but we had one really good one. It wasn’t rare to read a post saying “I’m being forced to use Windows at work, is there anything even close to BBEdit on Windows? Please??” This repeated elsewhere, and I think it shows the whole Apple cares more about quality than raw numbers when it comes to doing things. Sure, they want to sell a lot of computers, er, I mean, iPhones, iPods, iPads, but they also want them to be the best devices out there. I think it’s rare that the most popular thing is the best thing, and I think Apple knows that, and they’re fine with it. As for Android apps, I’ve read a lot of complaints about the quality of them, and the dubious nature of some of them (there’s money to be made with apps you know!) but hey, they say the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, right?

I’m eligible for an iPhone upgrade later this year, about the time the iPhone 5 is rumored to be released., but Android does have some appeal to me… I’ll get into that next time.