Bring your phone

manhole coverI took this photo during an evening walk with my iPhone. I used no filters. I did nothing to it in Photoshop.

The weird colors were just part of the manhole cover. I’m not sure who painted the edges green or how rust seeped through the white paint to give a pinkish tinge.

My point is to always bring your camera with you. If you have a smartphone has a decent camera, all the better – you’ll have it with you to get that shot you would otherwise miss.


Fantasy engineering

weeds in sidewalk cracksWeeds growing in sidewalk cracks – a very common sight. Think of how much money and time would be saved if one engineer would invent some kind of flexible, strong and long-lasting caulk that could go in the cracks…

– Time spent replacing broken and eroded concrete would be lessened.

– Time spent removing the weeds would be prevented.

– Money spent funding workers to do both would be saved.

So come on, engineers, find an investor and go for it!


Amazing cameras

The cell phone has replaced the point-and-shoot camera.

If you have an older phone, its camera is probably not very good, but if you’ve bought a recent smart phone, you now know how good a cell phone’s camera can be.

I’ve always been a proponent of small digital cameras. (My second, in about 2002, was a tiny Sony that was incredibly simple to use. I still love Sony cameras – my current non-cell-phone camera is a Sony.) The easier a camera is to use, the more often you’ll take photos. And if it’s small and light enough, you will carry it in your pocket, thus increasing your chances of not missing a shot.

Software is the biggest reason why smartphone cameras rule photography today. I took the photos below with my iPhone 4S and used the Dynamic Light app to add effects. B is way over the top, but the filters make the picture a lot more interesting. I applied filters with a little more care to create D. You might argue that C (the original) is better, but I like the more dramatic result of D.

And then there is the ability to share your photos. With a regular camera, it takes a lot of work to share a photo with your friends. With a smartphone app, it’s just a few clicks away. Creating art is great, but sharing art is even better.

In-phone photo apps are extremely easy to use. A professional using Photoshop would spend ten times the effort to gain a similar result. And yes, a “real” camera will give an amateur photographer better results, at least for the original. But again, the hassle of lugging around a huge camera will cause many lost shots – and memories of life events.

Another photo app I enjoy is Camera Awesome, if only because of the fun messages is provides while the image is processing. “Carmelizing kraken tenacles.”

Go forth and have fun with a smart phone, if you are able.

iPhone photos comparison using filters


Another modern life problem

Spotify applicationHow many times these days do you have problems getting support for a product or service? Tons, I’d guess.

I joined Spotify Premium a week or two ago. The concept is great – being able to have access to more music than is in iTunes and be able to have whatever I want on my iPod (as long as I keep subscribed via the $10 a month subscription).

As I said, the concept is great. Reality? It doesn’t work. I was able to get only one album to sync to my iPod, and then no more music would sync.

Support? I tried every avenue: Google search, their help pages, email help – nothing.

So I’m calling you, Spotify – help or I’ll quit.

(Updates 1. Spotify did respond by email, though their response did not totally solve the problem. and 2. Thanks to a friend, I will maybe be able to get to the root of the problem; see comments.)

A huge contrast is 1and1 web hosting. They are great! Real humans answer the phone, 24/7. I’ve called in a ton of times and almost every time, I get satisfaction. Their rates are also among the best in the business. If you need to host your website or grab a web address of your very own, I’d highly recommend them. (Note that this is an affiliate link; if you click through and sign up, I’ll get a few cents out of the deal.)



MyLincoln Touch adLincoln is moving forward with their technology. The on-board MyLincoln Touch system has all kinds of things that your internet-connected home computer offers: the ability to upload photos, find music, and sync your contacts.

The problem is that many of those things should only be done when you are parked. And they would all be done much easier on an iPad. The $400 cost is not much less than an iPad, and you can use an iPad in far more places than your Touch system.

Park your car, queue up the songs you want, plug your iPad or iPod into your car stereo – and then drive. You don’t need photos or contacts in your car’s computer anyhow.

If you’re in the market for a new Lincoln MKX, maybe consider a used Acura MDX or Honda Pilot for a third of the price and an iPad for each member of your family (or for several of your friends).

This ad appeared on the back cover of the September 2011 Automobile magazine.


The loss of something

As life moves forward, we lose some things.

When I was a kid, my family had encyclopedias. I used to enjoy sitting down and reading them. Or skimming them to find interesting articles. Hours and hours of my childhood were spent learning that way.

Today, kids have Wikipedia and Google. Both offer huge advantages over encyclopedias. But some things are lost. I wonder how many kids spend hours combing Wikipedia for interesting articles.

I have a Kindle, and I love it. But it’s far from perfect.

Recently, I learned of a high school not far away that is “paperless.” No books, except eBooks. Again, some good things come with that – but some things are lost.


Big brother?

Audi’s new A6 uses GPS and Google Maps to anticipate hills – so it knows when to upshift or downshift the transmission at just the right second. (Millisecond.) This increases performance and efficiency.

So the internet is even creeping into your future car’s transmission!

I do not say this in an alarmist manner. Rather, I see it as an exciting thing. This is technology being used well.

I think it’s even cooler when technology like that is used to bring clean water to people who might otherwise die. A friend of a friend, Erik Hersman, is doing stuff like that for Africa.

(By the way, I do have a big brother, in real life. He’s great. And by the way, this version of the A6 will hit US showrooms late in the summer of 2011. Stand in line now… just kidding.)


Not fun but necessary

Dust accumulates in this corner about once a week. Maybe there is some kind of a vortex of air and dust particles that causes it to accumulate at an unnatural rate. In any case, I know that I must sweep it up or eventually there will be a dust pile that will take over the house.

Similarly, there are tasks we need to do regularly or we may pay the price. One price that might be huge relates to your data. When was the last time you backed up your data? If it wasn’t this week, think of the time you would lose if your hard drive crashed.

Solution? Easy. Buy an external hard drive.

Mac: Attach the drive and it will walk you through Time Machine, a built-in program. Apple has instructions here, if you need help.

Windows? Just about any external hard drive comes with a program to do automatic backups.

My recommendation is to leave the drive attached and let it do your backups regularly.

A word of caution: if you think your computer is too new to require this precaution, think again. My brother’s hard drive died last week after just 18 months.


Apple Design decisions

I’ve always thought it was strange that Apple went in opposite directions for their iPad and iPhone lines.

Version 1 of the iPad has rectangular edges. Version 2 has a clamshell design.

The iPhone? Version 3 has a clamshell design. Version 4 has rectangular edges.

Apple is going divergent directions with these two product lines.

Preference for me? I like the clamshell.


Cool new technology

At the Denver Auto Show, the Saab display was amazing. Not for the cars (though I do like the new 9-5) but rather for the giant screen at the end of their rectangle. It was one giant TV. (Sadly, the top photo does not do it justice.) It was made of LED panels that were assembled for the show. Think: one of those giant displays at a big-city football field, only one that the roadies can take apart and reassemble multiple times.

The lower photo shows a closeup of the backside of the display. Each panel section was about 2 x 3 feet and was made of lightweight white plastic.