Category: Technology

One Year with iPhone 3G

intro-iphone-everything-20090608At the dawn of the smart phone era, I considered purchasing a phone with Internet access, but quickly shied away from that idea when I realized how painful mobile web browsers were at the time. I made up my mind to wait until a smart phone with a true web browser was available.

Enter the first generation iPhone. Finally, a mobile phone with a true web browser—not to mention an amazing interface—and a standards compliant one at that! The downside was that the first iPhone was tied to the abysmally slow EDGE network and I swore I would never go back to dial-up speed again. Well that and the $600 price tag. The first iPhones hadn’t been unboxed yet and rumors were already swirling that Apple would release a better 3G capable iPhone in a year. So I (reluctantly) waited.

I stood in line at the Apple store the day after the new iPhone 3G was released—with all of the other nutJobs—to fork over $300 and sign a $85/month, two-year contract with AT&T. After using my phone for just under a year, I can say with conviction, it was totally worth every penny. (more…)

Canon PowerShot SD800 IS

Canon PowerShot SD800 IS

It’s no secret to most of my friends and family that I’m very happy with my new camera. I think all of them are sick of hearing about it so I hope they see this. If you’re interested in why I purchased this camera, read the “Agenda: Digital Camera” post. I’m going to divide this review into three sections: image quality, ease of use, and features.

I’ll start with ease of use because that’s what I noticed first when I opened the box. The camera is nicely shaped—losing the hard corners of previous PowerShot models—and is easy enough to take photos one-handed. However, I definitely recommend using the wrist strap as it’s incredibly easy to drop considering its size and lack of non-slip grips.

The menus are exceptionally designed, making it just a click or two for common features, yet only three or four for advanced or rarely-used options. The buttons move nicely and choices are felt as well as heard/seen. And while all this is nice, the camera wouldn’t be much fun if the software lagged behind these clicks (I’m looking at you, Kodak CX4230). Thankfully, the results of clicks are almost instantaneous.

In terms of features, I knew what to expect so there weren’t many surprises. The manual settings (white balance, exposure length, light meter, but no aperture settings) work well when the full automatic or scene settings are not enough—not all that often. However, I really wish that the image stabilization worked for more than just full auto with auto flash. What I didn’t expect to use much at all but turned out to be an awesome addition is the video camera mode. It records in AVI and at 640×480 resolution so the files are gigantic and the quality is almost broadcast quality. Nice surprise.

Pros: Image quality, image stabilization, 3.8x optical zoom, size, battery capacity, video mode, manual mode, scene settings, optical viewfinder, screen size, and well-designed menus.

Cons: Image stabilization only available in full-auto mode.

Canon PowerShot SD800 IS on Amazon.

Agenda: Digital Camera

My Kodak CX4230 has worked reasonably well in the nearly four years I’ve owned it, but my eyes wandered to smaller, more powerful models more times than I care to admit. There were significant limitations to my camera, but the picture quality was decent despite its 2.0 megapixels and slow processor. Learning the half-press shutter trick was instrumental in extending that camera’s life.

However, dropping prices and my rising income have convinced me to splurge a little for a camera that does more than the bare minimum. That’s not to say I need every idiotic feature available, but I have a few requirements that I’m not willing to compromise:

  • The camera must be small enough to fit in my pants pocket.
  • It must be 5 megapixels or more.
  • Have both a large LCD screen and an optical viewfinder.
  • At least 3x optical zoom.

It’s a short list of standards that leaves a lot of players on the field, but I was able to weed it down to one camera: the Cannon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital Elph! The SD700 exceeds these features with 6MP and a 4x stabilized optical zoom. It also boasts one of the best camera processors on the market (the DIGIC II engine featured in their digital SLR cameras), 16×9 widescreen mode, and a video mode with sound.

I’m hoping to order it within the next two weeks or so—possibly in time for my birthday—and I’d like to write a little review here, comparing my expectations with the results. Stay tuned.

Update: After reading my friend Joe’s post about camera shopping, I noticed on DP Review that Cannon now has a PowerShot SD800 IS. It’s about $60 more than the SD700, but has 7.1 megapixels, wide-angle zoom, a new, DIGIC III processor, and face-detection to increase the image quality of people pictures. Looks like my final answer just upgraded.

Update Two: Turns out, the SD800 IS isn’t available until November; delayed gratification for me.

Update Three: I received my new Cannon SD800 IS in the mail today! Despite the previous update, Amazon has been selling this camera for at least a week (Oct. 27).

XSL Interpretation in Mozilla

I was working on an XSL template to parse an XML feed at work this week when I discovered a strange error. Everything worked perfectly in Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox locally, but when I uploaded, Firefox stated that I had a “mime type declaration error” in my XSL file.

After an hour of experimenting with setting every possible mime type, content type, and syntax I found in online help forums and tutorials—and breaking the IE and Firefox interpretation in the process—we found a comment thread that suggested changing the “.xsl” extension on the XSL stylesheet to “.xml”. And everything was good in the world wide web. Yahoo!

It was announced that Yahoo bought today. For those of you not familiar with, it is a social bookmarking website that I use to power my “Worthwhile Clicks.” Basically, it allows you to add a URL, describe the link, and tag it with descriptive terms so that it’s easy for me or other people to find. It seems that Yahoo is buying all of my favorite web applications; first Flickr, then Upcoming, and now

It’s also interesting how Yahoo and Google are acquiring a lot of new features by absorbing innovative companies, but in very different directions. Google seems intent on adding applications—Picasa, Earth/Maps, Talk, and Desktop come to mind—while Yahoo seems focused on social Web 2.0 applications.

It’s a smart move for Yahoo. Their original feature, a human-edited directory, made the company what it is today. Obviously, technology is a driving factor for any search company, but adding an army of devoted, intelligent users may be what Yahoo really wants.

The Dial-up Battle

Over the past five years, I suffered with the painfully slow dial-up connection at my house whenever I returned home for summer and winter breaks. I never hesitated to explain to my parents how DSL wasn’t much more expensive than dial-up. I offered to help pay part of the cost difference. Explaining how much extra time it took me to FTP hundreds of files or download program updates was fruitless. I watched the prices of broadband creep lower as everyone—it seemed—realized that their time wasn’t worth the wait. I begged, I pleaded, I argued, I reasoned, and finally gave up hope.

In two weeks, I’ll be moving to Baltimore and changing my permanent address. This morning, my parents signed up for Verizon DSL.

A Futon Torpedo

My brother plans to major in Physics and/or Chemistry when he goes away to college next week. I joked that he should invent a photon torpedo, but my mom misheard me. She thought that I wanted Jason to create a “futon torpedo.” The market for that would be astronomical.

End (Digital) Shutter Lag

One of my major gripes with digital cameras was the painful delay between the moment the shutter was pressed and when the camera would actually take the picture. On 35mm or other conventional cameras, this delay is nonexistent in all but the most demanding situations. I read an excellent article in the New York Times recently that is a godsend: Less Cursing, Better Pictures: 10 Suggestions. The trick is to hold in the shutter half way:

“You can usually eliminate the shutter lag by half-pressing the shutter button before the action begins. The camera prefocuses, precalculates and locks in those settings as long as you continue to half-press. Then, when [you want to capture the action], you press the rest of the way down to capture the shot. No lag – no lie.”

I can’t believe I didn’t know about this earlier. I used this tip yesterday to take some pictures of our dogs playing in the pool, mid-air water droplets and all.