Archive for September 29, 2012

Saturday, September 29, 2012

iPhone 5 Camera

Take Better Photos:

The iPhone 5’s camera is an evolutionary – not a revolutionary – step forward for iPhones. Whether or not you like it will depend more on your goals from photography than on its particular performance or features. Compared to the iPhone 4s, the biggest difference is its speed. The 5 feels faster and more responsive, with a much shorter shot-to-shot time. It feels clunky to go back to using a 4s after using the 5. Its photos also show more aggressive noise reduction, but at the cost of smearing away some of the finer details. It’s a personal judgement which looks better – the detail of the 4s or the cleaner smoothness of the 5. Personally, I prefer the look of pictures from the iPhone 4s, but the speed of the iPhone 5 has already seduced me too effectively to consider going back.

Jeremy Horwitz:

While its on-paper specifications don’t suggest that much has changed from its predecessor, the iPhone 5 is certainly better, and as close to a pocket digital camera replacement as anything Apple has yet released. Still possessing an 8-Megapixel (3264x2448) sensor, and adding only small software features such as a new Panorama mode that are also found on the iPhone 4S, the iPhone 5 rear camera nonetheless renders colors more accurately than its predecessors, more quickly acquires accurate focus locks, and offers dramatically enhanced low-light performance.

Jim Rhoades:

I’ve learned that 3rd party developers CAN take advantage of this special “low light boost mode.” […] While it’s not documented yet in the AVCaptureDevice Class Reference, taking a peek at the “AVCaptureDevice.h” class header reveals the related properties: lowLightBoostSupported, lowLightBoostEnabled, automaticallyEnablesLowLightBoostWhenAvailable.

Lee Bennett:

Either way, there’s more cloud detail [with AutoStitch], ergo why I like it better. The iOS shot has solid white blown-out areas in the clouds. And no matter which way you look at it, it’s easier to line up individual shots and stitch them later than it is to carefully hold a camera steady as you pan across for a live panorama.

John Gruber:

I’m baffled how [Consumer Reports] arrived at this conclusion, given that I’ve found the iPhone 5 camera to be not just a little better than the 4S in low light, but remarkably better. The only explanation I can think of is that whoever conducted these tests wasn’t using the built-in Camera app on the iPhone 5, and instead used a third-party camera app. In my experience, the iPhone 5’s new low-light capabilities are at least partially software-driven — low-light shots taken with third-party apps don’t seem any better than on the iPhone 4S.

Update (2012-10-04): Digital Photography Review:

The iPhone 5’s sensor isn’t magically more sensitive than its predecessor after all. There have been rumors of pixel-binning and multi-shot noise reduction at play in the iPhone 5, and based on what we’ve seen, it does look like the iPhone 5 employs some sort of pixel-binning at its highest ISO sensitivities, and upsizes the resulting images to 3264x2448 pixels (8MP). Notice how sharpness drops significantly between ISO 800 and ISO 2000. This appears to be more than just increased noise and more aggressive noise-reduction.

James Galbraith:

You’ve probably seen reports from AnandTech, Gizmodo, CNet, and other sites about the iPhone 5’s camera and problems with a purple haze in photos. And while the test photos I took for our iPhone 5 review didn’t show the purple haze effect, I can now confirm that I have been experienced. I’ve even seen the problem (though not quite as pronounced) with an iPhone 4S and a Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone.

Burnside Tweet-to-Email Gateway

Panic (via Cabel Sasser):

It’s particularly useful for companies that provide Twitter support. By handling @questions through an e-mail client, support agents can reply to tweets much quicker, answered tweets can be tracked by “Archiving” them or moving them to a subfolder, multiple agents can work out of the same mailbox (via IMAP), and an easily-searchable archive of tweets can be built over time.

Go Bloviations

Peter Ammon:

Go will refuse to compile a file that has an unused variable or package import. This sounds hygenic, like it’s a way to prevent the inevitable accumulation of unused header imports that torment C projects. But in practice, this is a dreadful, dreadful feature.

Nested Replacements

Allan Odgaard:

The problem is that the capture ($1) should be indented. Fortunately TextMate offers you its powerful format string syntax in the replacement field, which means we can perform further replacements on the capture.

Pretty cool, and I like the idea of previewing replacements.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Andy Ihnatko:

Like all great documentaries, it revolves around an idea that is universal. There’s nothing flashy or unconventional about Jiro’s sushi. You won’t find Hot Dog Chocolate Chip Pancake Sushi on his restaurant’s menu. His entire reputation was built on doing something as well as any human being probably ever will. And he got there by always, always, always challenging his own work, and seeking higher standards.

I enjoyed the movie when I saw it in June. As I recall, there’s a part where Jiro says, not unlike John Siracusa, that his most important talent is his sense of taste, being able to tell what’s wrong with his sushi. He thinks there are some French chefs who have better taste, and so theoretically could make better sushi than him, however they are not applying their talents in his area.

iPhone 5 Size

Clark Goble:

I thought the increased size would grow on me. Many have talked about how they forgot about it after a day. It hasn’t for me. I find myself unconsciously straining my thumb as I attempt to swipe the top of the screen. I don’t think I have small hands but honestly I think the earlier size was better. However given how Android has convinced people bigger is better this was probably a good compromise. At least I can swipe across the whole screen for most of the area. And one doesn’t typically swipe to the top status bar. However it really is just a tad too big to use one handed. I’d imagine people with small hands will have to switch to using it two handed the way most Android users do.

Lukas Mathis:

Apple notes that the top left and bottom right areas of the new iPhone’s screen can easily be touched with your thumb, without contorting your hand. […] It’s a bit of a strange claim either way, because different people have vastly different hands.

John Siracusa:

I hand-shimmy with the 3.5. So maybe with a 4-inch screen the hand-shimmy will just be a longer distance. Will I do double-shimmy?

“iCloud Backup”

Marco Arment:

It’s easy for most of us around these parts to forget how badly technology still works for so many people. This is supposed to be the best we have today: an iPad, a routine OS update, an Apple Store, an automatic backup feature.

I keep thinking that my grandmother would have an easier time with an iPad than her Mac. However, she likes to watch videos that require Flash—as I found out when Apple issued a software update that required Flash to be manually reinstalled. And no matter how much easier the iPad might be, I don’t think it could overcome the increased difficulty of solving problems at a distance. There’s no way to do screen sharing to fix things or see what she’s referring to, and with so many unlabeled icons and “invisible” gestures, communicating interface details via phone would likely be even more difficult than usual.

iOS 6 Battery Life

Clark Goble:

Go to your System Settings on the phone. Go to Cellular. Scroll down. It should say “Use Cellular Data for:” Apparently iOS6 defaults to “iCloud Documents on.” That means it was syncing everything on iCloud while on cellular rather than WiFi. I can’t think of what it was syncing, but it might have been Downcast data. In Downcast I’d told it to sync with my iPad. But there wasn’t any setting to specify only on WiFi. So I wonder if Downcast was syncing all the podcasts I’d downloaded before leaving. If so, then that might explain a lot.

Adam C. Engst:

To jump ahead of myself, the solution once again was to delete corrupt Safari bookmarks, but what’s easy on a Mac is often difficult or even impossible in iOS. I’ll share my unsuccessful intermediate attempts, and if you’re experiencing similar battery life problems, I encourage you to try the less-destructive approaches before taking the eventual tack I did.

How Gorilla Glass Came to Be

Bryan Gardiner (via Jason Kottke):

The idea to dust off the Chemcor samples actually cropped up in 2005, before Apple had even entered the picture. Motorola had recently released the Razr V3, a flip phone that featured a glass screen in lieu of the typical high-impact plastic. Corning formed a small group to examine whether an 0317-like glass could be revived and applied to devices like cell phones and watches. The old Chemcor samples were as thick as 4 millimeters. But maybe they could be made thinner. After some market research, executives believed the company could even earn a little money off this specialty product. The project was codenamed Gorilla Glass.



Spanner is Google’s scalable, multi-version, globally-distributed, and synchronously-replicated database. It is the first system to distribute data at global scale and support externally-consistent distributed transactions. This paper describes how Spanner is structured, its feature set, the rationale underlying various design decisions, and a novel time API that exposes clock uncertainty. This API and its implementation are critical to supporting external consistency and a variety of powerful features: non-blocking reads in the past, lock-free read-only transactions, and atomic schema changes, across all of Spanner.

Via High Scalability, which notes:

We see most of the criticisms leveled against NoSQL turned out to be problems for Google too. Only Google solved the problems in a typically Googlish way, through the fruitful melding of advanced theory and technology. The result: programmers get the real transactions, schemas, and query languages many crave along with the scalability and high availability they require.

iOS 6 Collection Views

Matt Neuburg:

The major new widget that will have the biggest impact on app interfaces is the collection view. A collection view is like a table view on steroids. A table view is the scrolling column of cells commonly seen in any master–detail app where a list must be displayed; Settings, Mail, and Music are familiar examples. A collection view breaks the bonds of the single vertically scrolling column, so you can expect, in short order, to see horizontally scrollable rows of data, multicolumn tables, and grids of information.

I’m not really a fan of these horizontally scrolling views, though. They seem like a flashy but less functional version of the basic column view.

iMessage Gets Smarter

James Duncan Davidson:

In the small but lovely improvements department, iMessage support in iOS 6 and OS X 10.8.2 seems to finally smooth out many of the rough edges that it has sported since arriving last year. The ability to receive messages to your phone number on all your clients is the well-publicized part of this. More subtle—and much more welcome in my book—is the fact that iMessage now seems to sort out which client you’re using and keep the rest from dinging extraneously.

However, I’ve found that the actual Messages app is buggy, only logging and printing partial chat transcripts.

Little Snitch 3.0

Little Snitch 3.0 adds tons of features. There are some informative reviews at MacUpdate.

iOS 6 App Store

Chris Newman (via Craig Chapple and Hacker News):

The new system only gives exposure to titles that are already in the charts. How does a new app break through? There is absolutely no way of being discovered unless a user is linked to your app directly, or searches for the app by name.

The new App Store app also feels slower to me than the previous version, and I don’t understand the decision to show only one app at a time in the search results.

Optimizing Flood Fill

Mike Ash:

RAM, despite being officially “random access,” isn’t truly random access these days. Modern computer memory is a complex hierarchical system which is optimized for common access patterns. Truly random access is quite slow compared to linearly reading or writing a long, contiguous chunk of memory.

When it comes to manipulating an image, this means that you always want to write code that iterates over x in the inner loop…

iPhone 5 Scratches

Sebastian Anthony (via Hacker News):

Anodization can significantly add to aluminium’s durability, but only if it’s done properly — and it would seem that Apple either forgot to seal the anodized coating, or it simply didn’t make the anodized layer thick enough to prevent scratching.

I thought Apple had figured out how to make scratch-proof anodized aluminum with the iPod mini and iPod nano. How much extra size and weight would that have added to the iPhone 5?

Update (2012-10-16): AnandTech:

The oxide is even thinner on the bands, particularly the chamfers, which are just painted metal. So while the entire thing is easy to nick, it seems easiest to scratch off lots of paint on the bands, as well as the various metal edges. The soft-anodized surface is just a magnet. And the thing is, I'm not even sure they have the material thickness to oxidize more of the surface to get a more durable finish. The entire phone is so thin, and especially on the bands, I can't see a way for them to corrode any more of the aluminum than they already have without it raising questions about structural integrity.

Make Your Library Enforce ARC

Steven Fisher:

When the user builds the unit, the error will be highlighted. They’ll see the comment just below, explaining how to resolve the problem.