Farewell to Steve Jobs

Today it is almost as if the technological world I follow so closely has come full circle. The man with the vision that practically started it all and certainly helped keep on its self-perfecting course has passed away, leaving a rich legacy of devices that have not only changed the way we interact, but what we expect from that amorphous concept ‘technology’. Whilst for many years there has been an esoteric air around Apple products, which seemed so stylish but could do so little for the uninitiated, they have risen to prominence by either adopting common standards or creating them anew. For me, Apple’s greatest breakthrough was the iPod- as it brought their love of simplified interfaces and artistic design to ‘the masses’, saving them financially and giving them the very platform that expanded into the iPhone and iPads. There are many dreamers, inventors and daydreamers, but it takes a true poet to bring all these concepts together and make a household name out of them. Steve Jobs was that man.

Just think that only ten years ago, the first iPod emerged. Being expensive, I of course bought into the competition, in this case Creative’s Zen, but if it hadn’t been for Jobs, the entire idea wouldn’t have come to life. Now, there were digital music players, but they were clunky and undesirable by comparison, just as the early smart-phones or tablet computers failed to catch on. I personally love Apple for all they have achieved, but as with any company, there are things to resent as well as love (in fact there was the time they dissed Jobs, for one), so I’ll leave that aside for now, but the fact that they could become the world’s number one tech company under Jobs says a lot about him. Jobs embodied the technological boom we are living through, the great liberal ideas and progressive grasp of the realities of our world and through this made it possible to literally have some of the greatest technologies man can make in the palm of our hands.

Steve is known as an expert in the fields of design, technology and business leadership, but to my mind the depths of his inspiration lie in something deeper. In fact, it is all an expression of his genius, his tapping into something far greater than himself, to share it with the world as a whole. Apple, devices, presentations are all just ‘devices’ or ‘apps’ in them-self. The vision behind them comes from his appreciation that there is more to this life than we casually see. In short, Steve must be remembered as a master- a master who like other masters spent time travelling in India and immersing himself in the great mysteries of the East, emerging from this in his own particular way adapted for his own particular generation. In our time and for our purposes it was the birth of personal communication devices to help create an international, networked culture in which there would be a measure of digital equality such as the world has never experienced in other fields- a natural and instantaneous technology that would be more fun to use than cumbersome. To my mind, to this point, it has culminated in the ever-evolving iPad. Sure, there will be similar devices by others, even better ones in certain respects. But they will be iPads more than ‘tablets’ if they are to succeed. They will be personal, cosy, usable and attractive . For Jobs wasn’t dreaming of consumer devices. He was dreaming of devices to help the average consumer, even to do things they had never thought of doing before. It was an expression of great wisdom and compassion, of a dedication far beyond the norm.

For this, he will be timeless and is, from the Perfect Futures perspective, undoubtedly continuing his existence on other spheres as we speak, his work here done to perfection. Just think of the success, not, I may add the success in the face of competition, as in many ways he helped to create the very field in which the competition took place! People have personal computers, laptops, iPods, smart phones, iPads. In many of these areas, right now, the most attractive options to many people are in Apple’s stable, as evinced by sales. Even when seemingly cheaper options exist. Now, in the world of the PC this is more complex, as I really can’t say that Apple’s options are always the best value and in the world of the smartphone there are already a lot of other attractive options. but Apple, through Jobs, managed to be number one. That’s saying something, that’s saying a lot. Not so much about Steve Jobs himself, but more about whatever it is he tapped into, the great universal energy, or the spirit of liberal progress in humanity. I’m not sure exactly. But we shouldn’t turn this occasion into ego-worship of a man who had clearly to a great extent left his personal ego behind. We should celebrate the wonder of creation and our incredible capacity to co-create within it. We are no longer cavemen and to a great extent, this is thanks to what Steve Jobs showed us we can do. Any of us… if we just put our mind to it.

RIP, Steve Jobs, though I am sure you are, or will be, creating ever greater things, wherever you find yourself. If anyone helped to bring about a Perfect Future in their lifetime, it was you.

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The iPad 2- The Tech Talk Review (Technologies)

The iPad 2- what to say that hasn’t already been said, perhaps better, by someone else already? Well, here we have the perfect tech talk device. New and revolutionary in it’s approach, like it’s predecessor, it is a machine not so much based around it’s hardware, amazing though it may be, but around what you can do with it. Right now, with other tablets thin on the ground and lacking many of their own apps, it currently faces little serious opposition, though of course will probably change.

My ‘review’ of the first iPad was as a non-buyer, disappointed that opportunities to make the most of it’s form factor had been lost with the sparse hardware given. Much as I wanted to jump on the train heading towards tablet/slate/pad bliss, I just couldn’t justify the expense for a machine lacking in so many areas. The iPad’s defenders at the time argued that they were esoteric features that only tech-heads would want, but I’m not so sure. It seems that Apple agrees with me and fixed many of the issues in this update and from what I’ve heard, as with the response to newer versions of the iPhone, sales are rocketing as never before. So what are the improvements over iPad 1?

What’s Good

* Front and rear cameras capable of HD video (though with unfortunately poor resolution), so now Facetime and soon Skype can be used with this. Whilst iPhone 4 has Skype, like many other functions (see more below), it’ll be far more satisfying on the iPad’s larger screen

* Slimmer, lighter and with a thinner bezel around the screen, which makes it easier to use with one hand and a lot more slick and stylish. Being that few mm thinner should be enough to entice many hardcore Apple fans to update in and of itself (!)

* Faster, dual core processor of a newer generation (A5 vs the former, single core A4)

* A claimed 6x increase in graphical abilities

* Double the ram (512mb vs 256mb), and of a newer type running at twice the speed

* Through an adapter, allows HDMI screen mirroring or, with video and photos, 1080P output, which is perfect for seeing video on an HDTV, or making presentations or slideshows. It’s also great for audio if you want that digital clarity.

* A similar IPS LED 9.7 inch screen, some say with better colours, which makes photos and videos look amazingly good even off-angle, far better than on most most laptops or netbooks.

What’s Not so Good

* No true USB, just an ability to transfer from some cameras

* Small memory of only up to 64gb and expensive at that.

* No SD slot of any flavour, making it basically unexpandable (though the cloud could fix this.

* The same screen resolution as before (1024×768), no-where near the pixel density of the iPhone 4’s retina display (132 ppi vs. retina’s gorgeous, print-like 326dpi). I was hoping this would be updated, but maybe next time?

* The poor cameras. They might not get used much, but by having lower resolution than the screen itself (some say they are probably the same as those in the latest iPod), they may well never get used again, save for video. Which is a shame, having a decent digital camera with a 9.7 inch screen would be quite an experience.

For me personally, this time around, the pros outweighed the cons and I got one.  Having a webcam ensured it could be enough to take only my iPad on a trip and still video-call home if I wanted. The HDMI output also makes it a better portable computer or HTPC if needed and I find it great for sharing many things in a way the former VGA just couldn’t suffice. Also, by being faster it is far more capable and smooth to use. With the first edition, I couldn’t stand the idea of paying so much for something that was actually less powerful than my iPhone 4, which had double the ram. Also, the weight of the first one was off-putting, giving it a chunky rather than hi-tech feel, which was more than fixed in this update, which raised the bar again on what is possible for a tablet/slate/pad or whatever they actually are (I’ll just say tablet from now on, as it’s a term everyone recognises).

So, basically, I see it as a decent leap up from the first iPad, in my view enough of one to make it a worthwhile purchase for anyone on the fence before. Of course, there are already rumours of a newer model coming out as soon as September, with possibly double the screen resolution and presumably a newer graphics/ quad-core cpu to feed it with. It wouldn’t totally surprise me, especially if we start seeing Android tablets coming out over the summer with similar abilities and Apple finds a need to compete with them. Tablets being so ascendant, I’d hope that soon we’ll see 6-monthly updates, much as we see with laptops which might not be irresistible upgrades, but would more quickly push the technology into areas where the laptop still reigns supreme, such as graphical design. Once that starts, we really will be in the ‘post PC era’. Yet, it is perhaps more likely that Apple will stay with it’s yearly cycle (although they broke this with the iPhone 4, which is still to be updated), as even higher-tech tablets will take a while to challenge the iPad on the software front.

This post has focussed mostly on the technical advances and advantages of the iPad 2 over it’s predecessor. Although it’s not perfect, I feel it gives a good balance of features which make it a worthy purchase. Like anything in the world of tech, there is bound to be a better one around the corner, the main question for a lot of potential buyers being how far away that corner is and if in itself the one now is good enough. You could well end up waiting for ever and not being able to enjoy the experience of using one. On that note, my next post will be more about why I think it is a special device simply in the way that you use it and that even if you think it’s a waste of time, could actually show you a new way to do familiar things that makes them far more enjoyable.

iPad Generations?

Despite all the naysayers, Apple’s iPad is certainly poised to revolutionise how we do things. What things these may be is still unclear, but things nonetheless. So here is my little list of these…

Things– to do with an iPad

* Reading magazines
* Reading illustrated books or comics (not so good for regular books methinks)
* Offering a light way to carry university textbooks
* Surfing the (non-Adobe Flash) internet
* Checking out social-network sites
* Make quick emails/instant messages, perhaps while doing other things
* A universal remote for the home (including A/V, curtains and lights)
* Entertainment for travelers (thanks to the long battery life)
* A digital map
* Skyping people (only audio, but possible with a headset)

Meanwhile, in the professional/arts world it could well be used for-

Keeping patient’s charts in hospitals or dentists
The same apps used for diagnostic purposes as now used on an iPod (but with a more useful screen)
Portable productivity (less likely, but it’s lightness helps)
Simple CAD design and Wacom-like uses for artists’ sketching
A remote control for a sound mixing board

In all of this, though it may not be as good as a dedicated device, the fact that it can do so many things without the encumbrance of maintaining or lugging around a computer means it could well catch on. The key point is the app software, which judging by the amount written for the iPod, could well be extensive. There’ll be no boot-up time, it can be used on the lap the way a laptop never really could- if not exactly mobile-sized, it is pretty portable. For now, the size and quality of the touch-screen is unique. People who love using these will feel very comfortable having it on a larger scale. It has unlimited potential.

Right now, though, it is a stiff price for something without a camera and sparse memory, a ‘Hard Sell’, if you like. If you aren’t willing to pony up for the 3G versions, you also lose the GPS functionality. Also, it needs to be said, without a particular reason to get one, many people are wondering, why bother? How that will ultimately translate into sales is anyone’s guess- the fact it can’t keep the tech crowd happy doesn’t mean it won’t appeal to everyone else. The fact it is fun and does the basic necessities for a lot of people may prove to be enough and the unprecedented coverage it’s getting also can’t hurt- apparently, this is the most hyped up device in history.

At the moment, it’s lack of features mean it is still something of a toy, one I may end up getting anyway to do some things, but will wish it did more. As an iPhone user, I’m familiar with the situation- I love the thing and always have, but really wanted copy and paste for a while- then it came. A better, AF camera? It came. Such new devices are a lot of fun, yet as the evolve they also get more useful. This here is Tech Talk, where I’m interested in current and emergent technologies, and whilst part of this is executive toys or digital equivalents of the record player, barbie doll or Pokeball, it all needs to serve a function. So, having seen G.1, it’s high time to speculate about the inevitable G.2 model; which will no doubt give people like me what they were clamouring for and induce a lot of the first Generation users to upgrade. Who knows, I may even get the G1 and then part-exchange for a G2, luckily the price makes it possible. So, without further ado, here are my predictions, some would say speculations

Predictions for the G.2 iPad

Display- A new 7 inch model for more portability (as seen in the Kindle 2), possibly with another widescreen option for better movie-viewing. This will mean some apps work with bars around them, unless they are specially coded; but in many cases, it won’t make too much difference, just as computer apps can dynamically scale to the screen being used. I suggest 7-inch, as this would be a lot more portable, yet still large enough to have a high resolution screen. If it catches on as an e-reader, it may even be possible to have a hybrid paper/LCD screen at some point, though I expect those to take longer to develop.

In the further future, there may well be solar cells behind the screen, though this is some ways off from now. Another possibility is an AMOLED screen, which may well make it into the
next iPhone (as may many of the features below, they being in the same
product ‘families’), though may still be too expensive to use in larger screens..

Processor- Probably a faster, more energy-efficient model. If the current A4 is really 4-core, as is rumoured, the number of cores may even increase, as a way to increase power without raising the temperature (TDP). This is similar to the design of the Cell processor in the PS3 and very suitable for multi-tasking, or multimedia with various streams to encode/decode simultaneously.

Camera- There will probably be a 5MP AF camera (as rumoured for the G4 iPhone), with LED flash and possibly (or instead), a lower-resolution web-cam on the front. In fact, there is even an unused space for that now, which of course would make this a great video-Skype device. Hopefully, there is the ability to capture 1080p video- which would really make this a compact camera replacement. In the further future, versions may well have 3D stereo cameras like this Samsung model, though I expect the climb to full high-definition in ‘mono’ 2D will come first.

This ‘limitation’, like many other seeming ones, could well be overcome with a bluetooth camera accessory. Though I really want a camera to be featured, that might even work better, as you could position it just right.

Speakers- These will probably stay the same, as it is seen as a device to be docked if engaging in serious audio.

Software- By then, more multi-tasking will be allowed, especially for messaging programs to run in the background.  The superior processor will shine with this (though I expect it to come out with OS 4.0, within the next few months, for current devices). In terms of Apps, perhaps the iTouch family’s ‘killer app’ in itself, many of the ones I detailed above will already be available.

Memory- This is a no-brainer. The quantities will be 32/64/128 Gig, which will be enough for a serious stand-alone device, perhaps even a laptop replacement for some (at least for traveling).

3G/GPS- Now standard in all models. By then it may even extend to 4G, if viable networks exist. That said, not too many will want to pay for this service as well as their phone’s data plan, though there may be some way of sharing it (one providing Wi-fi access to the other).

Connections- I’m thinking micro-USB, micro-HDMI, even micro-Displayport. I’d hope for them, but it is quite possible that iPod-style docks will be all that comes, so hopefully they go beyond the pathetic VGA-adapter and expensive ‘camera kit’ nonsense. Bluetooth, though not so fast, could also be used for some of this, especially the upcoming Bluetooth 3.0+ HD. When it comes to the bewildering sparseness in this department, I wonder if connections were avoided for fear of spoiling the simplicity, the clean lines of the device (as on the Macbook Air, or the iPod), the ‘coolness’, the ‘hipness’. Sometimes, I suppose, less is more… especially in the consumer world Apple is aiming for, where this is a real possibility.


So, why ‘a big iPod’ could succeed,
despite anything anyone might say

In all of this, let’s remember that this is aimed at Apple’s market- the iPod crowd, making things accessible to ordinary people. Despite crying out for all these feature aboes, it’s really the iTunes integration and app store that is driving Apple’s sales- along with the terrific functionality they offer. Simply adding more features for the sake of it isn’t going to help them, as people don’t like ones that they don’t know how to use; they tend to crowd devices so that the layman doesn’t even know what goes where. They introduce the very worst thing for the consumer, the thing that has put so many off computers, let alone smart phones, for so many years- confusion of purpose.

Giving credit where it’s due, Apple are masters of avoiding this predicament, by developing form and function in harmony so that everything has an easy to use place. Just seeing my DSLR’s menus made a manual-camera using friend say he could never use it. Of course, these features can all be turned off or even ignored- but they can be intimidating if too obvious, as you are left thinking you ought to know, or will need to spend time studying up on it. By contrast, ‘It just works’ is Apple’s catch-phrase, one that brings people from all walks of life into their stores and using their products. Confusion- any kind of confusion, can spoil that pristine experience of simply doing what you wanted to do. If this means flying in the face of accepted logic and open standards, then Apple, like other companies, is more than willing to do that, with the hope of setting new standards themselves. I’m not sure I agree with this approach, as it makes for a minefield of choices for the consumer, but at least within the Apple ‘walled garden’ it kind of makes sense, as you know what’s what.

Keeping things simple has also opened up the world of Apple technology to many females. Both my girlfriend and mother have and love their iPhones, in a way that they couldn’t love their computers (well, newer laptops are better in this, but only used in certain ways). I think the touchy-feely way of doing things appeals to them, rather than needing to adapt to the ‘male world’ of hard drives and USB ports to plug into. I confess, I’m also an Apple fan, even though I decry their limitations. I love my Macbook and iPhone, treasuring them, whilst my former desktop and hi-tech Sharp phone (from 2006, with a 5mp, 3x optical zoom camera and VGA screen no less) were way harder to use- crashes, the phone needed multiple clicks to do anything, just not as much fun (though these days PCs are a lot better). Perhaps for some Mac fans,  just one button can be enough!

Not everyone using technology is a technophile; something many tech-critics are prone to forget. Look at the success of the Wii, which does hardly anything, as evidence of this. The same with the DS, which also offers a new and ‘natural’ interface that anyone can enjoy. Back in the world of computers, the reduced capabilities of a Netbook have been no barrier to their adoption (price is no doubt a factor, but ease of use is certainly another one). Yet, the problems with a Netbook show what happens when you try to shrink the desktop interface too much- cramped keyboards, tiny text and awful, tiny touchpads. It’s almost as if such hand-held devices are destined to have touch interfaces.

So here comes the iPad- a way to do what you can with the surprisingly highly evolved iTouch (iPod/iPhone) devices- yet more, better and faster, too. Devices like it are the future, in a way that laptops can’t be- as the latter are over-evolved word-processors, designed for desk use. Just look at the imagery from films like Avatar – slate-like devices are everywhere. Because the keyboard, taking up half the space of a device, is a waste of space if it isn’t used- and most people can touch something quicker than scroll around for it. So let’s not underestimate it- even if we are waiting for just the right model before we make the leap. Smart phones took years before they reached the level of the iPhone 3GS, or Google’s new Nexus One (which technologically could eat the iPhone for breakfast, but doesn’t have the software to match, I’m afraid). Slates could well catch on even faster and I’m willing to bet the coming iPad is far from the last word on them.

Straight, No Chaser.

A Traditional Photography Blog - dehk © 2016

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