Archive for the 'Computers' Category

Dawn of the apps

It’s all starting to come together. A few weeks ago I discovered a peculiar thing. I’ve always carried a small camera with me ever since the days of the original Cannon Ixus, more for a sense of ‘it’ll be there when I need it’ than any really coherent plan. I’ve worked my way up from film to digital to really proper 5 megapixel + digital. And the more digital and costless it’s become the more I’ve been using it. However, recently I’ve been leaving it at home and there it sits getting ever more lonely.
So what has brought about this change? Have I just stopped taking pictures or what? Obviously if you look at this blog or my Flickr photostream you’ll see I haven’t, so what is going on?
The fact is I’ve downgraded, or not so much downgraded as sidestepped. I’m still carrying a camera only instead of boasting super focusing and loads of manual control like the Ixus, it boasts pretty crap resolution but a host of fantastic add-ons. It is of course my iPhone. And the single most compelling reason for using it as my main camera is the ability it gives me to adapt, publish and share my pictures.
Using relatively inexpensive apps, like ColorSplash, Photogene, and Mobile Fotos, I can take pictures, colour correct them, crop them and play with them, then upload them immediately to my Flickr page. It’s a revelation.
Of course it would be doubly great if the camera in the iPhone wasn’t such a dog, but what really surprised me was that I found the immediacy offered by the iPhone/app/Flickr combination far outweighed the superiority of the Ixus images. Sure I’ll still use the Ixus for my big Hockneyesque collages, but for everything else the apps have it.

Archive for the 'Computers' Category


Another neat little app for the iPhone, Colorspash is probabably the best £1.19 I’ve spent recently.
Colorsplash strips the colours from your iPhone photos, then lets you put it back in a finger painting style. Simple to use and with the best help system of any app I’ve played with, this is both powerful and fun to use. It is also highly versitile, allowing me to fine tune the feathers of The Diva’s boa.
There has been a growing trend for apps that make the iPhone into a truly creative platform – painting and photographic ones especially – and Colorsplash is a great,fun addition to these.

The Diva in performance mode

The Boys discover bottle throwing

Archive for the 'Computers' Category

OMFG It’s 1984 in a box

overview_hero2_image20090106Just been playing around with Apple’s new iLife package. Overall it comes off as a bit of a halfway house, only Garageband and iPhoto seem to have had any real work done to them, while iWeb and iMovie have barely been touched. However, the changes to both iPhoto and Garageband are pretty amazing.

Garageband, Apple’s basic, mass market music recording software, has had a whole new tutorial module attached, along with some upgrades to the guitar amps, but it’s the tutorials that are the outstanding thing. Although there aren’t very many of them – you can see it’s a tentative early days implementation – but what there is is pretty fantastic. You’ve got 9 lessons for both guitar and piano and each one lasts 5 – 10 minutes. You have a video lesson, complete with music notation and a mockup of either the piano keyboard or the guitar fretboard, then you can play a song along with prearranged accompaniment. So far I’m about halfway through both and I’ve learnt a couple of key things as well as being able to play Ode To Joy along with what sounds like a rather half arsed oompa band and some basic blues. It’s great. The tutor, Tim, is all Apple cool, but effective nonetheless and the format is great. The only downside is that there are so few lessons. I can see myself wanting more comprehensive ones pretty damn soon.

Actually that’s not the only downside. In keeping with its iTunes Store and the iPhone AppStore, Apple has launched a Lessons Store for these lessons, and while the initial ones are free, the idea is obviously to charge people for additional lessons, including lessons teaching you how to play ‘popular’ songs featuring the people who wrote them. And while I don’t have a fundamental problem with this, the current execution is terrible. You have to think that a supposedly hip company like Apple would have been able to sign up some proper stars, rather than the dross that’s featured here – Sting being the only one I even recognise. It’s a very short line up of, I guess, Gap style blands like Ben Fold. Again I suspect that this is a case of a featured rushed out slightly before its time. Next update let’s hope they bring us the likes of Radiohead etc. Also at £3.45 it’s a little too expensive.

The other major upgrade is iPhoto and I’m not sure whether to be amazed or afraid with its latest feature, Facial Recognition. To use it you identify a particular individual’s face (the programme’s intelligent enough to identify faces themselves) and iPhoto takes it from there, showing you additional images that it thinks might be that person. The more images of the person you identify, the better iPhoto gets at identifying them. I spent a lot of Saturday going through my images and I was gobsmacked. It’s a fantastic feature.

It is also profoundly scarey. Imagine, this is a consumer application that can go through my not inconsiderable iPhoto library in less than 10 minutes identifying all the faces (and admittedly some elbows, hands and other bits and pieces, but by and large faces). It’s then able to sort those faces based on my input confirming the identity of various people. And its suggestions are, pretty much, accurate, it’s able to separate me at various ages from my family at various ages and it throws up relatively few errors. And this is what consumers get. For less than £60.

Imagine what the spy community gets! Imagine how much more accurate and swift that software is. Imagine being able to scan, sort and identify an entire airport of users in seconds, being able to track people through traffic and security cameras, I used to think it was as unlikely as Tony Scott’s Enemy Of The State. Now, I’m not so sure.

And mapping people couldn’t be easier. Assuming I have a camera with GPS, iPhoto will even arrange my photos by location. So I can theoretically follow someone, identify them and have a series of photos that show where they’ve been going. And while I can see numerous great family uses for these features, they raise some sinister questions.

Archive for the 'Computers' Category

That O2 Un-experience

O2 says Fuck YouSo what would you do if you were trying to provide a ‘special offer’ to some of your most ardent, most evangelical customer? You know the kind who aren’t shy about coming forward and telling their friends what a bang up job you’re doing with that great piece of Apple kit that (currently) no one else can provide. The kind of early adopter people who appreciate technology and great design.

Personally speaking, I’d make some sort of effort, but then I’m not O2, the spanish telephone company that has the lock on the iPhone in the UK. They thought of a very special way of making their customers’ iPhone upgrade memorable. First you send them a text message at 8 in the morning telling them you’re offering them a special deal. It’s so special it’s a web only deal.. You tell them that it’s extremely limited and demand is expected to be high. You tell them it’s first come, first served. You direct them to a part of your website that is 3 clicks away from where they get to sign up. And then.

Your server crashes at 8:02.

How bad is that? Well. It’s pretty bad. Admittedly it’s not bad in a ‘Hover, we practically blew the company on that free flights offer’ way, but it is bad. Bad in so many other ways. Bad in a ‘we had a chance to marry our brand (which no one gives a toss about) with Apple’s (one of the world’s best brands) and we decided we’d rather stab our customers in their eyes than take the opportunity’ kind of way. Bad in a ‘aren’t we supposed to be, like, a telecoms company?’ kind of way. Bad in a ‘shouldn’t we have some idea of extendable server systems’ kind of way. Bad in a ‘do you think anyone will trust us to set up ANY kind of internet sort of thing EVER again’ kind of way. And very, very bad in a ‘do you think they’ll notice’ kind of way. Hmm, let’s ponder that last one. Nope, I think they’ll definitely notice. But just in case they don’t, let’s redirect them to look at our iPhone tarrifs, I mean they’re all only going to be EXISTING IPHONE CUSTOMERS. They’re only currently paying for the service, so they’ll probably have AN IDEA of your bloody tarrifs.

So O2, the telecoms company that thinks it’s better to sponsor the millennium dome than actually provide a, get this, mobile telephone service, this is how badly you’ve blown it. You’ve managed to convince ALL the early iPhone adopters in the UK that you’re systemically unable to live up to the Apple brand. You’ve managed to convince us that you know NOTHING about technology, NOTHING about the internet and NOTHING about your customers – except that apparently it’s OK to treat them like scum. You’ve managed to convert an opportunity into a catastrophe in a way that can only be described as self-inflicted. You’ve demonstrated an incompetence of planning that is somehow also deeply, deeply strategic. This is long term brand-nuking stuff. This is a well known major supermarket selling poisoned food manufactured in sweat shops by slaves to children and exposed in a popular Sunday tabloid. This is incompetence, ignorance and technical illiteracy as core brand values. This is ‘Ratners sells crap’, but sent by text message, individually to each of your customers. This is getting really, really, really close and personal with them and then, giving them a full-on blowback of your festering halitosis.

Compare and contrast with the Nike +, a partnership with Apple that worked for both partners, where Nike win a Palme d’Or at Cannes, while Apple reinforce the iPod as the natural choice for runners. Here Apple must be really pleased to work with people who can’t even keep a server running. I mean Apple only sells billions of tunes via iTunes and here’s its specialist mobile partner and they can’t even keep a website up. For the morning. This makes Apple look like twats for selecting this bunch of amateurs for their partners. Worse, it makes Apple look like stupid twats. It makes Jobs look like an asshole. And you’ve got to think, How long is he going to tolerate that?

Archive for the 'Computers' Category

I tell you I was forced to do it

The other day I was forced – forced you understand, absolutely compelled – to get my hands on a PSP. If only so I could play with it and determine what options were available in terms of web access and communications for a small project I’m involved in.

It’s not a bad piece of kit, great for watching super-compressed movies, but there aren’t a whole load of great games for it. Obviously there’s Wipeout, which is just great whatever platform it’s on, and I’m well on my way to becoming a right bastard in God of War, but aside from this there’s not a lot that’s setting my world on fire. Additionally, Sony seem to have given no thought to any kind of integration with Macs. So I had to also get my hands on The Missing Sync, which lets me totally synchronise my PSP with my Mac. A black PSP

As far as using the web goes, it’s not bad. It’s wifi enabled and beats the crap out of any mobile bar the iPhone, but its screen size and lack of a keyboard are problematic. It takes the length of a bible to input any kind of text, and good passwords that combine a load of letters and numbers can take forever to put in. However, I’m keen to get my hands on the Go! camera and try using Skype.

As the project I’m working on proceeds we’re probably going to be developing an interface for the PSP (and ultimately for more gaming platforms). I’ll let you know how it goes.