2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 60,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 22 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Chrome 13 Instant Search

Google released Chrome 13 on Aug 3rd, 2011.

This release contains over 5200 changes, but one of the bigger changes includes a new feature called Instant Pages.  Instant Pages basically preloads the first search result for “some” pages, and upon clicking displays the first page instantaneously.

I did some testing with this new feature to see how it works.  Obviously, results may vary based on what you search for and the Chrome team indicates that this works only for “some” pages.  I found that it worked in some pages as well but it didn’t always work as described.  It’s possible during my testing that either I was too fast in clicking the search links, my internet connection wasn’t fast enough at that particular moment, or the site behind the instant search was too slow to respond.  Further testing and usage will be needed, but I can see some value already with this feature.

Another thing I noticed is that the first Chrome search result appears with the a blue arrow next to it.  Apparently this arrow has been around previously to this release, but it appears to also serve as an indicator of an Instant Search result according to this article/post.  Evidently the blue arrow has annoyed some users already and in normal Google fashion there is a way to turn it off as well.

All-in-all, Chrome 13 seems to be another great release in my initial testing so far.  I will be exploring the other big features next, such as Print Preview and Print to PDF.  Looks like Mac users will have to wait a bit longer for the printing features though so I will only be able to test on my Linux and Mac machines.

If for some reason you didn’t get the auto-update you can trigger a manual update of Chrome by clicking the wrench icon, then opening “About Google Chrome”.  Have fun!

Mac App Store Reviewed

Apple launched the Mac App Store on January 6th 2011, approximately 90 days after it was announced.  The Mac App Store follows the success previously set forth by the iOS iPhone/iPad/iTouch App Stores.  It has a similar look and feel to the iTunes interface, albeit much cleaner and less cluttered.

My initial impression on this was I didn’t care much for the new store concept, and that thought stewed for 90 days while waiting for the launch date.  Upon using the new Mac App store, I formed a newfound appreciation for it.

My quick summary: I think this will be a huge deal for the Mac platform… correction, this IS a huge deal for the Mac platform.

Here is why the App Store is great…

  • As a Mac user I now have an easy one stop shop location to find applications and their respective updates.  This is something every platform can benefit from.  If you are a gamer, the Steam store is a similar concept.  Steam provides for an awesome game purchase/ownership experience.  I think the Mac App Store will be as useful if not more.
  • Each application uses the rating/review system as similarly defined by the iOS App Store.  This system lets you rate the apps with a one through five star rating.  You can also add a review to share your thoughts and opinions on each application you have purchased.  This rating and review can be very handy when trying to find feedback before you buy.  Prior to the Mac App Store this process was sometimes difficult and spread-out across various news and forums sites.
  • Mac Developers benefit from higher exposure to their apps since users will flock to one central location.  Apps can become listed in various ways on the store such as; Featured, Top Charts, Categories, or by Search.  I like to browse through different app categories to find new apps or to just get ideas for applications that I never knew I needed.  I think this increases exposure to many more apps than I would have been able to see by searching via distinct websites.  This can only be good for both developers and users.
  • Developers will no longer have to worry about complexities with app hosting, download fees, registrations keys and piracy, as well as simplified money handling (i.e. Apple).
  • I can install all my apps on all of my Macs running OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.  No longer do I need to worry about silly license codes, and policys that restrict how many machines I install my apps on.  This makes it easy to reinstall my apps on new machines or if I decide to re-stage my OS.
  • There are some crazy good deals and discounts on previously expensive Applications.  For example, Aperture is now $80 (normally $200), RapidWeaver 5 for $40 (normally $80), SketchBookPro $30 (normally 80) and many more.
  • I think Apple may consider giving free or discounted OS upgrades in the future…. ala the iOS model.  Yes, the OS may require better newer hardware (like Snow Leopard does) but it will be in Apple’s best interest to get as many Mac users on the latest OS software from a App Store and developer relationship stand-point.  This would help get rid of older OS versions quickly, oh and it likely sells more hardware.

Here are some issues with the App Store…

  • For Developers, Apple gets a 30% cut, you the developer get 70%.  Some may see this as a win-win as they don’t want to worry about hosting fees and registration keys.  Some company’s like Adobe may not want to incur a 30% hit on their high priced products (i.e. Photoshop).
  • If you previously purchased an App outside the store you don’t automatically (at this time) receive the benefits of the App Store automatic updates and simple App Store licensing.  To get the full App Store benefits you would have to re-purchase the App via the store.  One exception to this I found… some developers are providing deep introductory discounts on their apps to entice users to repurchase and get included App Store benefits. Some developers (like the fine folks at Realmac Software) have provided refunds to recently purchased RapidWeaver 5 purchases that were just prior to the App Store roll-out.  They did this for me when I had purchased RapidWeaver 5 in early December 2010.  I asked for a refund so I could re-purchase RW5 on the Mac App Store.  Developers like this should be praised for handling this scenario.
  • There is no way to try an app before you buy.  Developers have to create a separate “lite” version like we have seen on the iOS App Store.
  • At this point there is no easy way to get a refund if you don’t like an App.  You can of course request one from Apple, like if you accidentally purchased an app, but this is a one-off formal process that involves opening a support ticket with Apple.  I’ve done this in the past and its not an impossible process, its just not as easy as clicking a button to get a refund.
  • Apple controls whether you can list your App on the Mac App Store.  Most Mac users won’t care, but some will, especially when this affects the app they are trying to buy (or sell).  Apple reserves the right to reject any apps they deem inappropriate.
  • Apple controls the information around customer data.  Basically this means it is hard for Developers to know who its users are since most (all?) data is held by Apple.  Apple may choose to open this up further in the future but in the mean time Developers are left mostly in the dark about its customers.
  • Sometimes it is almost too easy to buy an App.  After your App Store password has been entered, one click on the purchase button essentially “buys” the app.  Think Amazon one-click.  I hope Apple will let users configure a dialog box “are you sure” message for those of us that are sometimes click happy.
  • You need a Mac with OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.  Older PowerPC systems (PowerMac, Powerbook, iBook, etc) won’t be able to use the store.

Well that concludes this discussion for now.  I am curious to hear your experiences with the Mac App Store… good or bad.

Photo battle: iPhone 4 vs HTC Evo -Part 2

In part 1 of the Photo Battle: iPhone 4 vs HTC Evo we looked at two images taken with both cameras.  So far it is a draw, with the iPhone 4 winning the first round and the HTC Evo winning the second.  In part 2 we will look at two more pictures and compare their properties to see if we can find a winner.

Round#3:  Monitor, Indoors but lit directly by window light

The actual shot is of a blackish grayish Dell CRT monitor.  The iPhone 4 has a slight purple hue to the entire image and especially the monitor and carpet.  The Evo’s image has a blue hue to the entire image and is especially noticeable on the monitor and carpet.  It looks like both cameras failed to capture the correct color of the dark gray monitor.  I think it leans slightly to the iPhone 4′s representation of the monitor’s actual color, but the iPhone has too much purple in the carpet also.  The Evo captured the carpet colors more accurately.  Zooming in 100% I can see both images are a bit blurrier than I would hope.  This is especially noticed near the vent holes and the upper ridge.  The iPhone’s sharpness is slightly better, but has much more noise and grain.  The Evo is softer over-all but the noise reduction has taken away some of the sharpness and noise.

Evo Image #3

iPhone 4 Image #3




















Winner of Round #3: It’s a toss up between the two images and both have several issues.  Both cameras struggled to capture the accurate color.  The iPhone 4 image has more noise/grain and thus a bit better sharpness.  The Evo has less noise/grain but is much softer, and has less sharpness overall.  I would lean towards the iPhone’s sharpness and noise/grain.  But if you prefer softer and less grain then the Evo takes it.

Round#4:  Dark room using built-in camera flash, picture of LCD projector

This shot was taken in a dark conference room and using each camera’s built in flash sequentially to take each respective shot.  The closer focal length of the Evo blew out the the grey color of the projector, making the side seem almost white.  The iPhone’s LED flash worked well enough to illuminate the projector and didn’t blow out the grays as much as the Evo.   Both images struggled to get accurate sharpness in the dark light.  The iPhone LED flash seems to light up more of the surrounding area of the flash vs the Evo seems to have more brightness but only close up before dropping off fairly quickly.

Evo Image #4

iPhone 4 Image #4




















Winner of Round #4: Slightly leans to iPhone 4.  Both have decent color for the conditions of being a dark room.  The Evo’s flash was a bit harsh and blew out the gray on the side of the projector, then drops off very fast.  I did prefer the iPhone 4 flash in this shot over the Evo.  It’s possible that more sampling of indoor flash between the two cameras may reveal different results.  The focal length difference of the Evo vs the iPhone could also be a contributing factor to the faster flash drop off experienced in the Evo image as the Evo flash hits the projector sooner due its tighter focal length.  More specific flash testing could yield different results.  Let me know if you find anything different or that which confirms these results.

Overall Winner: iPhone 4 wins this photo battle challenge.  The main factors that side with the iPhone 4 is the better sharpness and noise correction algorithm in the iPhone 4.  There are some shots where both cameras fail to get the correct white balance and thus have incorrect color.  Overall the iPhone won out in more of the images.  Of course all of this can be subjective to the eye of the beholder.

Tell me what you think, by sending me a reply with your thoughts.

Disclaimer:  This is a subjective test and is subject to my opinion and preferences.  Also, I have to disclose that I am a current iPhone 4 owner and carry any known or unknown bias with that.  During this test I tried to be as unbiased and fair as possible.  I posted links to the original images, so you can be the final judge.  Enjoy!