Friday, November 29, 2013

Stop. Open window. Shoot.

Guess the camera...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The "post rant" post: "An Open Letter to Martha Stewart Regarding Avant-Garde Food Photography"

Just after my previous post, I come across this article from wired.

Common ground is how people actually use they phone cameras and like to do so because it makes "nicer" pics. 

I guess their message can be extended to all "artists" ou there overcooking their shots for "nicety".

Sometimes people just want to see the real thing... I for one am one of those.

Android to support RAW, on "shitty" cameras?

I was discussing this with friends over Twitter and it suddenly clicked. It does make sense.

You see, every review that says the iPhone camera is superior is flooded with comments of people that remark it's lack of HDR+ and that they actually prefer the Nexus 5 photos or the Lumia(!) cause they look prettier, or simply that can't be bothered with "too clean" iPhone photos and the "need" for post-processing.

(shot from a moving car)

Well, if you are from Mars and are homesick, or for some other reason were looking for a redish looking photo instead of a truthful photographic depiction of a place and a moment, then by all means take the Nexus 5 or the HTC One (lovely machine, "ultra" crap camera). But the iPhone has always had and still has the best camera. As a camera. You know, something used to capture a moment as truthfully as possible. With things like shadows for instance.

(this would make a great HDR, but was shot from a moving car)

But besides the moronic fanboy blind preferences, there have been some pretty good points made.

People nowadays prefer to shoot auto-enhanced photos and share them immediately (or as soon as they have WiFi). They do not want a truthful photographic instrument, they want Instagram material, and they want it instantly. They do not want to go around fiddling with filters and/or post-processing apps.

Other like to do so (post-process) and don't care about truthful or not, and may actually prefer an already "prettier" photo to start with.

(back lit castle) 

Discussing the merits of an iPhone camera then loses all context when most of the target users don't really care about truthful photography, they want pretty images, even or especially if the truth they are shooting isn't that pretty (above).

(created with 3rd party HDR app)

So what Google will allow with this RAW format support is good. Because "it's better", they can say "we have it", yet another big-name, "killer feature" and subsequent fanboy ammunition and marketing BS. It will allow much deeper photo edition and some proper photo editing, not just enhancing. And maybe finally have some vendors provide proper camera sensors, even external cameras, and get some proper photography be done by an Android device. Maybe.

Of course, RAW doesn't simply look better, what it provides is a much deeper field to play with photo corrections, adjustments, touch ups and enhancements.

But why not? I see no reason not to be happy about it, especially if you have a brilliant device (like my favorite, the HTC One) that is not exactly a properly truthful photographic instrument. At least you'll have the possibility to make a lot more improvements on a RAW than on a JPEG.

Who knows, you may even be able to salvage some of them for you family album, without being mistaken in the future for little green immigrants, or be believed to have lived in some crazy polluted time with this strange "red mist" in the air all the time...

(night, indoor, no flash or HDR)

Well, I've been delaying this post so I could get my hands on an iPhone 5S and shoot a couple proper pics. But I've been too busy and haven't really had the opportunity to shoot anything with intention. So, all previous photos were taken on the run, and are all from a demo iPhone 5S.

Trust me, there is no phone in the world even near the raw quality of this camera. Hopefully I'll be using and taking proper photos with an iPhone 5S soon (you you'll be able to follow that on my Flickr if you like).

But by all means Google, keep putting out "killer camera features" like burst mode or RAW. It will delight most users, and at the very least keep photo fans entertained while waiting for the promised "insanely great cameras".

"We are committed to making Nexus phones insanely great cameras. Just you wait and see."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Who's fragmented now?

You may be aware I'm not a fan of Android. But that on the other hand, I love the HTC One. I usually don't really care much about fragmentation and what OS version I'm running (though I do when it comes to app compatibility and availability), and the thing I like most is a proper well built version with no BS or bloatware.

If you read previous rants you know I find the Samsung Galaxy S4 to be the freaking Xmas tree of smartphones, and that it's user experience failed to deliver. On the other hand, the HTC One (despite the mandatory "blink feed") presented a stunningly fast, discrete and effective usage experience.

(click to read The Galaxy S4 vs HTC One post)

But anyway none has received the 4.3 update, let alone the new 4.4 Kit-Kat because fragmentation. So why dig this up now? Well, you can now mostly disregard the software upgrade international, local and carrier version barriers and install the 4.4 experience on any Android (though some older may need some additional hacking). You can see how on a previous post here.

Most importantly, Google services, their real strong point, are now better and more integrated than ever.

- GMail, Google Drive & Quick Office. You can now edit any document, store it in Drive and access it anywhere, and you even got a space boost for using Quick Office.

- Plus and YouTube. Latest comment integration makes youtube video social sharing (via Plus, obviously) automatic, and it's still Facebook and Twitter friendly.

- Add to Picasa/Plus the new Photos integration

- We now also have Talk/Hangouts with SMS integrated

- And you still have Blogger, Chrome and the extraordinary Maps/Earth duo and Navigation, and Music.

So Google is now clearly a global service provider and is developing pretty good integration between those services. And that tends to get better and better with time. Adding 4.4 support for mid to low end devices with min 512MB will also eliminate reduce the fragmentation problem, allowing virtually anyone to use them.

Point being I'm now using an "old" Android device, running an "outdated" OS version and having a pretty good user experience and access to all the above "goodness" just by installing a few APKs.

Ironically, while Apple has kept to the original iPhone plan (build the HW and OS, let others do the services, being Google the partner at the time) now it has spread across external natively supported service providers (Vimeo, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr) mixing them with it's own services and apps (iCloud, iMovie, iPhoto), endeavoring in new or improved (iMessage, mail, cloud), while still accepting to somehow accommodate the competition's services as well (Google, Microsoft, Dropbox).

Now add to that the fact that the iPhone5S and iOS7 has very little new to offer to prevent people from changing, besides a pretty awesome camera.

And that all Google services or apps are completely free, while Apple has made a pretty good mess of it's iWork/iLife mobile apps pricing, and their add-ons.

Ah, I can already hear the fanboys: "Who's fragmented now, bitch?"

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The best MotoGP rider, in the world...

I was drawn to moto racing in the times of the 125/250/500cc two stroke bikes. I grew watching (barely) Rainey, Doohan, Schwantz and Mamola.

I learned that the best talent doesn't always equal wins, as bike and sheer luck can stop a great talent from being World Champion. Recurrently. But that doesn't take any merit away from non-record and victory collecting riders.

I've also learned that having the best ride and being a good rider is frequently not enough. A good rider can get 90% out of the bike, 90% of the time and most importantly, 90% of the time it matters.

Talents with hot heads will do it 100% of the time and crash. Usually on the worst moment ruining their chances and seldom even getting to the main category.

But when good riders come across an "alien" rider, they get eclipsed by the latter's talent and results. Doohan did it to Crivillé. Rossi did it to, mostly everyone, starting with Biaggi but especially Lorenzo on the same bike. Stoner was also a treat, no matter what he rode, but left. Simoncelli was on his way to do the same, when a stupid crash (and not a reckless one) took his life.

(RIP Super Sic)

Now we have Marc Marquez. He obliterated the competition last year in Moto2, wining against the favorite and now finally crowned Pol Espargaro. He even managed to win one race where he forgot to put it in gear at the start and dropped to virtually last, and also won the final race starting dead last after a penalty (video and post about it here).

He went on to MotoGP this year to beat the Yamaha/Lorenzo perfection duo and adapt faster to a new bike and a new category than Yamaha's returning Rossi, and humiliate his teammate Pedrosa in the process.

(photo credit by )

This year he showed courage and speed to go at 100%, the intelligence not to and settle for second, and the wisdom to now when to do each in an almost perfect balance.

After getting used to the new ride, pushing hard and even falling a few times, he took advantage of his speed to force his way forward, and a couple races where his opponents were out because of injuries to take the lead in the championship. In the end, he controlled his pace and fighting instincts in the final races to finish "only" second or third but maintain his lead in the championship.

The final race in 2013:
Lorenzo deliberately rode slow while leading, to try and see if Marc would get in trouble with traffic and if Rossi could catch up with him. Marc held his own. He even had to brake mid corner on occasion to prevent driving over Pedrosa in 2nd. Pedrosa made his moves on Lorenzo to try and shake his strategy, but the Yamaha/Lorenzo superiority meant he could get the lead back literally in the next corner. Then they came together. That is when Lorenzo decided to throw the tactical towel and just gun it. Chased and passed Marc after dropping the lead on the Pedrosa incident and tried to pull away. Was he trying to get Marc to follow and maybe make a mistake, or was he trying to make a point by winning uncontested? Whatever the intentions, THAT is racing. Driving as fast as you can for the win. NOT slowing the pack down and playing a dangerous chess on two wheels game. Marc kept his cool. Pedrosa came back and he waved him trough back to 2nd. He did not fail or react poorly to any kind of pressure. He is now just 20 years old. On his first year in MotoGP:

(emotion and happiness of mentoring father Julian)

It is clear to me that a new era has begun. Sooner and stronger than the Rossi one.

(recognize the little kid?)

Marc has the potential to be (if he isn't already) the best motorcycle rider the world has ever seen.

Congratulations Marc Márquez!

Marc Márquez - 2013 Moto GP World Champion

Marc Márquez - 2013 Moto GP World Champion

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Install the Android 4.4 experience on mostly any Android now:

There are just a few steps for this. If you have an HTC One, you will lose (or happily get rid of) "Blinkfeed". You will get new or renewed apps/services (search, now, photos etc).

Step 0 - Before starting you have to go to settings, and find “Security” -> “Unknown Sources” and check that box to allow installation of apps from unknown sources.

Step 1 - Download, unzip and place these 3 files on your phone. Then install in this order:

     1 - PrebuiltGmsCore.apk
     2 - Velvet.apk
     3 - GoogleHome.apk 

You can then run the new "Launcher" from your apps and set it as default when prompted to do so.

Additional step: install the new Hangouts+SMS and ani-gif support. Get it on Android police, here:

I for one am enjoying this new Google experience.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A segurança do GPL

Num episódio recente de "Fifth Gear" (S23E07)o Jonny @carpervert Smith fez uma reportagem sobre o GPL e o porquê de não ter "vingado".

Claro que não se aventurou por águas perigosas (má regulação/legislação, fruto ou não do lobby do petróleo), ficou-se pelo "medo do gás". Mas explicou como ter um carro a GPL seguro, e provou que o são.

Obviamente que tem de ser uma conversão feita "em condições" numa oficina credenciada, o que estranhamente em Inglaterra não é obrigatório, e o carro/sistema tem de ser minimamente revisto e mantido como qualquer outro, e não ignorado.

Para provar que, na eventualidade remota de haver uma fuga, o GPL não é menos seguro que a gasolina numa consequente explosão, fez um teste "científico". Provocou uma fuga de gás, e incendiou-a. De seguida fez o mesmo com gasolina, literalmente no mesmo carro.

Vejam o vídeo:

Para que não fiquem dúvidas, a 1ª explosão foi o GPL. O carro ficou chamuscado mas ainda em condições de ser abusado novamente. A 2ª é a gasolina. 2 litros de gasolina.

No final ainda refere que os tanques de GPL não rebentam, deformam-se de forma controlada e prevista. Isto faz com que dificilmente expludam ou fiquem com fugas em caso de acidente, o que já não pode ser dito com a gasolina em tanques de plástico.

Ainda ficou por dizer muita coisa. Mas é uma ajuda para desmistificar o "perigo ambulante dos carros a gás".

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

GT6, everything there is to know is now out:

A few months ago I reported on all we new about GT6 so far. Well, it turns out we now know a lot more, thanks to an official blowout of information on the official GT6 site.

First, the official date for a global launch is locked on the 6th of December.

Then, the hard core stuff. The full car list is available on the Japanese GT6 site. There's a note warning that:
 " This list is one part of the cars planned for inclusion, and is subject to change."

So far you can see a total of 1197, 124 of those new cars (in the series). But expect more to come, and some of them to not be available right off the start.

Anyway it's a good starting point as it includes iconic machines such as the DeltaWing (now apparently removed, head on to GTPlanet for more info) or the Lunar Rover. Classics like the R8 Gordini, Firebird TransAm, the 250 and 288 GTOs, or the Shelby 350. The new electric Tesla and Fisker are in, also the FXX, as well as plenty of  new ('11/'12/'13) road cars, updated racing cars, a pair of Pagani Huayras ('11 & '13) and a bunch of GT-R and GT86 versions.

I can't wait!

We also got the official new tracks, adding to the not so new, but for the first time free Spa:

Spain's Ascari Full Track (here's Tiff Needell when he visited the Resort)

Australia's Bathurst - Mount Panorama

Silverstone, Brands Hatch and the Goodwood Hillclimb in the UK (here's Chris Harris talking it through)

Willow Springs International Raceway in the US, a revised Apricot Hill Raceway, and a couple new original tracks: Matterhorn and the Gran Turismo Arena:

There is more info about Game Modes (drifting is still in, apparently and hopefully improved as demonstrated by a GT Academy racer below)

... and Car Management, Tuning Options, Online Features but I'll leave that to be discovered in game.

To get it you should reserve it online and get DLC codes for special cars and money, and in my honest opinion, get the 15th anniversary edition. That'll get you 5+20 more cars, special paints, suit, helmet and avatars, and some physical goodies as well. But yes, it's €10 more expensive.

And finally, here's another video to finish off:

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