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The iPhone 6 (and 6 Plus) Go To Disneyland

Last week I decided to test the most secretive, hotly anticipated smartphones on earth in a place where there was no danger of them being recognized or damaged or both: Disneyland.

Both my wife and I are Disneyphiles of sorts, and visit a dozen times a year or more. I have an appreciation for it because my daughter loves to go, but also because of how carefully the place is planned, constructed and run. Disneyland is the Apple of theme parks. What better place to test the new models?

I’ve had a ton of experience using phones to navigate, communicate and photograph in the park. It’s tens of thousands of people packed into the same square mile, all using devices to do the exact same thing you are. The network is crushed, it’s bright and hot and you’re juggling kids and strollers and other vacationers. It’s an ideal real-world test for smartphone batteries, screens, usability and cameras.

There are a ton of reviews out there that have done meticulous work with benchmark apps, rulers and rectal thermometers to get you spec-based evaluations of the new iPhones. This is not one of them. I took a trip and used the junk out of them. I had some interesting realizations, I took some good pictures and I wasted some time in long lines playing Spider-Man. If this sounds like what you do on trips then you could find something useful here.

Aside from any Apple employees who may have visited the park, I believe I’m the first to have ever used the new iPhones there. So here’s my Disneyland take on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Because I drove home from TechCrunch Disrupt and drove to Southern California on the same day, I had no time to prepare the iPhones for the trip — especially how I was going to disguise them so I didn’t out them before the review date. So, after a quick consultation with some spec comparison charts for dimensions, I stopped at Best Buy on the way and chose a half dozen different Samsung Galaxy S and Galaxy Note cases to try. When I got to the hotel I tried a few out until I found a couple that worked and cut holes in the backs for the iPhone’s camera, which is in the corner.

These are my super stealthy iPhone 6 disguises:

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 12.21.17 AM

The Galaxy Note III is significantly shorter (!) than the iPhone 6 Plus, so the case fit pretty poorly, but it did the job.

Forgive the cutting job but I had to borrow scissors from the hotel desk and they don’t let you take them away for some reason — probably fear of mattress tag cutting. So I quickly and nervously eyeballed my camera holes as the bellman managed the trick of furrowing his brows at me while still smiling politely and wondering what in Odin’s Beard I was doing to my phone cases.

They’d fool no one who was really looking, but they were enough to obscure the outlines enough to not warrant that second glance.

No one ever noticed, and even though I was with 10 family members none of them ever noticed that I was using the new stuff — though they’re used to me juggling my Nexus 5, Windows Phones and iPhones in the process of staying current.

Monsters Inc. Power Co.

The battery life situation is always a sticky one in the parks. Because there is no WiFi, everyone fights for a slice of the cellular bandwidth to upload Instagram pics

I used the iPhone 6 Plus for two days straight at Disneyland without charging it once and still had 16% battery life left. The iPhone 6 did very well too, with 32% left after a single day of use, but the 6 Plus was definitely a beast. IMG_0076

Remember that (as with everything else in this piece) I didn’t ‘stress test’ the battery, I just used the phones heavily. This included things like loading up the line wait times for a ride or messaging pictures I took to family members who wanted them. Lots of texting, sharing locations and calling to triangulate where everyone was. And a significant amount of gaming, both 3D and puzzle, to pass the time in lines.

So your mileage may vary, but there’s a significant difference between the two in this regard.

Guest Services

The iPhone 6 is more comfortable, by far, to use for messaging and for photos. I’ve handled all kinds of cameras over the years and the 6 Plus has to be one of the more awkward. It’s just fine in vertical mode but horizontal becomes a choice from awkward finger reach to the shutter button or a sideways press on the volume button situated on a slippery curve to shoot.

iPhone 6 Plus

iPhone 6 Plus

Moving the sleep buttons to the sides of the phones was a great decision. My Nexus 5 has the same configuration and it makes a lot of sense. When applying pressure to it you have a guaranteed diametrically opposed force from your thumb on the other side of the phone to make it a sure proposition to press. With the button on the top you’re pressing down against nothing, forcing you to ’squeeze’ the phone overall, which is more awkward.

iPhone 6 Plus

iPhone 6 Plus

The new sleep/wake position pays when you’re blazing hot and sweaty and handling a bare iPhone. It’s better with a case but the slipperier designs of the new iPhones are a consideration and make handling the 6 Plus iffy sans protection. I’d love an additional shutter button, like the Nokia 1020, but doubt that’s happening any time soon.

Main Street Photo Supply

The iPhone 6 is easier to handle and performed extremely well in all lighting conditions. The low-light performance is nearly identical between the two models, even though only the 6 Plus has OIS (optical image stabilization).

Both cameras shot well in good light, with great performance in super bright sun. Especially welcome were their ability to capture even bright reds like Mrs. Incredible’s costume (shot with iPhone 6):

IMG_0085

iPhone 6

Solid, bright reds are notoriously difficult for image sensors to capture but both iPhones handled them well.

Apple has made significant improvements to its ISP (Image Signal Processor) which have resulted in apparent gains in sharpness, color rendition and low-light performance. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are the best smartphone cameras I’ve ever used, and approach the best point-and-shoot cameras I’ve ever shot.

Cameras like the one in the Nokia 1020 may have more raw resolution, but Apple’s decision to build its own ISP, and to fine-tune it to the sensors and hardware it is using has paid off big time. A lot of attention gets paid to Apple’s chip efforts on the A-series processors, but the ‘sidecar’ chips like the custom ISP and M8 are just as important — and just as good a reason for its competitors to step up and start designing their own stuff. The results are palpable.

IMG_0058

iPhone 6 Plus

You’ll also be happy to know that there didn’t appear to be any purple fringing issues in highlight areas with either camera.

The phase detection autofocus is extremely quick, and the continuous autofocus while video recording is active is absolutely fantastic. The leap in quality over even dedicated cameras can’t be overstated. The image quality is off the charts and the (software driven) “Cinematic Stabilization” is amazing. With some apologies for the asynchronicity, Here’s a video shot with the iPhone 6 on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad split-screened with one I shot just a couple of years ago with a point-and-shoot:

Note the shakiness of the dedicated camera, and how quickly the iPhone 6 transitions from dark to light. The cinematic stabilization is wildly effective at evening out what you can see was actually a very bumpy ride.

The focus, too, makes the iPhone version of the video that much better. And then realize that this was down sampled to 720p to match the older video. The iPhone 6 shoots in 1080p, making it even crisper.

Tower Of Optical Terror

There are technical reasons why OIS isn’t all that effective in point and shoot cameras but the simple way to explain it is that the devices are low-mass, the lens is tiny and so is the amount of ‘throw’ that it has to move back and forth to counter your hand motions. Will it help? Absolutely. Will you notice? Probably not a lot.

Here are a couple of images taken with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus at night in ideal ‘stabilization would help here’ conditions:

iPhone 6, no OIS

iPhone 6, no OIS

iPhone 6 Plus With OIS

iPhone 6 Plus With OIS

The results are great, no matter which you shoot with. I was consistently blown away with the low-light performance of both models. Technically speaking the OIS “gives you back” around 3 stops of light, letting you shoot at slower shutter speeds with decent quality. That’s great, but is applicable to a small slice of your overall shooting. Still subjects while you’re also relatively still at night or at dusk. It won’t help you with moving subjects at all, something that Apple has tried to fix by combining long and short exposures (a new trick) together to create a sharper image. That works on both models.

Here are a couple more images that show off the light-gathering abilities of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus:

IMG_0054

iPhone 6 Plus

IMG_0381

iPhone 6

Yep, the iPhone 6 Plus image above is ‘better’, but probably not enough for most people to notice without a direct comparison. For those of you feeling existential angst over the OIS in the iPhone 6 Plus, don’t stress. Buy it for the screen, buy it for the battery, but don’t buy it for OIS.

Unless, of course, you’re a photographer that wants every last pico of quality out of the camera and you’re ok with the size.

Even in brutally unfair lighting conditions, like the inside of a dark ride, the iPhone 6 performed well:

IMG_0034

iPhone 6

The selfie camera got a great upgrade, too. It’s sharper and better in crappy light, though it still has a bit of an ‘interpolated’ watercolor-ey feel. I use FaceTime a lot when I’m traveling and the poor quality has always bothered me. It’s not mind-blowing but it’s good to see Apple paying attention to the trends.

IMG_0077

iPhone 6 front camera

As a side note: Apple’s decision to eliminate the camera roll and to merge photos from various devices using the same Apple ID is going to confuse a lot of people. I’m not sure it’s the right choice and was confused by it multiple times and I’m paid to get this stuff.

The screens of both the iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6 are top notch. Color rendition is accurate and vibrant. Both are visibly sharper than the iPhone 5S on even casual inspection and the iPhone 6 Plus has one of the best, if not the best, screen I’ve ever used on a smartphone.

Which One Is The Wildest Ride In The Wilderness?

I had decided early on to use each device for a couple of days straight to get a feel for how they’d work, and then carry both in my pockets to see which one I naturally reached for. This period turned out to be fairly revealing.

When I wanted to browse the web, play a game, read anything of any real length or (and I think this is most important) watch a video, I reached for the iPhone 6 Plus. If I wanted to shoot a photo or message someone, check Instagram or my fantasy football scores I grabbed the iPhone 6. This leads me to believe that the iPhone 6 Plus will be very big wherever people use their phones in a ‘tablet’ fashion.

The iPhone 6 Plus is a great option for people who don’t have or want an iPad — or simply don’t want to carry it. Where the iPhone 6 is a great upgrade to the iPhone line, the iPhone 6 Plus is a fantastic ‘computer’.

I would feel much more comfortable typing out blog posts quickly or proofing articles with the larger iPhone. The iPhone 6 Plus is a great mobile command center for work uses, and I think that its adoption will spell that out.

I’d also keep an eye on areas of the world where video watching is often done on tablets over even TVs. The iPhone 6 Plus should do well there — price limited of course.

I used the iPhone 6 Plus a lot more when I was sitting in one place for a while, on a bench or in a long line or had a minute to play a game. Skill-based games, especially, get a nice boost from the larger viewport. There are several games I play only on the iPad because they’re ‘easier’ when you’ve got more screen to see with — endless runners are a good example because you have more reaction time. The iPhone 6 Plus is going to be a great gaming console.

There will be those who will go for it simply because it’s ‘the best’ or even ‘the most expensive’ and I think Apple will benefit there. But there is something that feels more confident, for lack of a better word, about having the 6 Plus along on a trip.

The fact that Apple included a specialized split-screen mode in many of its apps is a signal. Developers will be able to utilize the iPhone 6 Plus’ screen real-estate to do new and clever things that trend more towards the iPad than iPhone, and that will be interesting to see.

Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow

In addition to being a good testing ground for smartphones, Disneyland Is also a place conceived of by Walt Disney, a man who bore more than a passing resemblance (in deed) to Steve Jobs. While Steve is gone, a lot of the culture he created for Apple remains — and one thing Steve was good at, by most accounts, was creating an environment where the proper creative motivations were paramount.

In his biography of Disney, Neal Gabler gives an account of the creation of Disneyland:

Marc Davis was presenting the plans for a new Audio-Animatronic attraction called Nature’s Wonderland to a studio group that included Walt. Davis opened by saying that there were two ways of executing the project—an inexpensive one and an expensive one. “And Walt got all the way up from his seat and walked around to the front of the room where I was,” Davis remembered, “and put his hand on my shoulder and he said, ‘Marc,’ he said, ‘you and I do not worry about whether anything is cheap or expensive. We only worry if it’s good.’”

Similar thinking permeates the iPhones. It would have been more cost effective to buy an image processor from whomever, but creating a custom one gave Apple an edge that paid off much larger dividends in the long run. The same goes for the 64-bit A8, though we haven’t begun to see that show its cards yet.

While we’re talking specs for a second, I have a confession to make: I don’t love technology.

I think that the ‘pure’ love of technology is somewhat pathological in the culture that TechCrunch often covers. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

But what I do love is what technology, when it works in concert and for our benefit, can accomplish. Sometimes that’s curing diseases or enabling the impaired. And sometimes it’s as simple as capturing that perfect ‘daddy’s shodurs’ selfie.

And that’s where Apple’s efforts with the iPhone — and especially these latest models — really come to fruition.

I’ve been trying to quantify exactly what makes these versions so badass — and they are. What I’ve come up with is that they finally feel fully intentional.

Apple designs well, in general, but while I’ve appreciated the technical merit of the last 4 iPhones I’ve owned, I haven’t been overly fond of the sharp, hard edges. I recently tweeted that the iPod touch was a constant reminder that the iPhone had room to grow — and the iPhone 6 tore into the ground between the two devices design-wise.

The rounded edges and bull-nosed glass invite the edge gestures that make the bigger screens somewhat palatable. It feels organic in a way that the iPhone hasn’t since the first generation.

I have no doubt that the comments of this article will fill up with people crapping on Apple for one reason or another, or defending Android — no matter that this isn’t an ‘Android or iOS’ article. But that doesn’t change the truth of it and it doesn’t do anyone any favors to pull punches — Apple simply has its act together better than its competitors.

When it’s hot, and it was over 100 degrees every day I was in the park, and you’re trying to get directions, check a ride wait time or snap a photo before a moment passes — all you want is for your junk to work, period. And work right the first time with no fiddling.

Over the years that I’ve used an Android phone daily I’ve grown to enjoy its amazing voice capabilities and the sheer flexibility of the OS.

But there is always an undercurrent of frustration with choices made by either carriers or Google, tacking on services and rejiggering things. There’s a certain fussiness to Android that has never gone away and likely never will — it’s simply a different approach and that is 100% JUST FINE. But the difference between something that you can make work and something that wants to work for you is still present for now.

Hardware and software working together is one of those things that we hear a lot about these days and lord knows Apple likes to toot toot its aluminium horn about it. But it’s most important when the stuff you use is personal to you.

I’ve written about this and Apple’s hardware approach before:

Mobile devices have almost no tolerance for poor judgement when it comes to design or implementation. Users are less tolerant of touch latency, poor design decisions and other foibles, even if they can’t articulate it.

This low tolerance means that seemingly ancillary or fussy choices like the width of a volume button; the diameter of a rounded corner; the speed of an animation or scrolling action all take on an exaggerated importance. If you’re able to control all of those things in intimate detail by dictating down to every screw, either actual or metaphorical, then you’re going to have a leg up in ‘personal’ devices.

“Look, the thing that’s going to make Disneyland unique and different,” Walt insisted when the park was being built and the bean counters wanted to start cutting corners, “is the detail. If we lose the detail, we lose it all.”

Personal devices like smartphones and wearable devices are made up of nothing but details. The next few years promises to continue to be kind to those who grasp control over that minutia and don’t let go. It’s not the only way, but it is Apple’s way, and the new iPhones are representative of that.

Go here to see the original: The iPhone 6 (and 6 Plus) Go To Disneyland

Yahoo reveals it faced $250,000 per day fines from the US for opposing surveillance request

Yahoo today celebrated the publication of previously classified documents from its legal battle with the US government over expanded data requests. As part of the release, the company revealed that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court threatened a $250,000 per day fine for refusing to provide customer data.

The battle between Yahoo and the state occurred in 2007 and 2008, but the company filed last year to have the records unsealed after the Snowden leak implicated tech companies in the NSA’s surveillance apparatus.

If you’ve got some reading time on your hands, Yahoo says there are more than 1,500 pages from the proceedings that have been released. Not all the documents have been published, however, and Yahoo said it will continue to fight to have more of the case materials unclassified.

Shedding Light on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC): Court Findings from Our 2007-2008 Case

Thumbnail image credit: Robyn Beck / Getty Images

NPD: Sony’s PlayStation 4 tops the Xbox One in the US for the 8th month in a row

Yahoo sued for allegedly using corrupt judge to help reduce $2.7B judgment in Mexico

See the rest here: Yahoo reveals it faced $250,000 per day fines from the US for opposing surveillance request

Lytro revamps its iOS app to add a range of new interactive features, and iPad support

Lytro has released an updated app for the iPhone that’s designed to better showcase images shot with its brand new Illum light field camera. And, for the first time, the Lytro mobile app is universal and native to the iPad.

The new Lytro Mobile App — as distinct from the original Lytro app — offers some profound interface changes, including a dark background and images which now appear edge-to-edge in both landscape and portrait orientation, as opposed to the previous version’s centered square.

Image interactivity has also been enhanced. Not only can you tap to focus — as one does with a light field image — but you can tilt or rotate to shift perspective and even change the aperture with a two-finger twist.

photo 730x547 Lytro revamps its iOS app to add a range of new interactive features, and iPad supportA two-finger twist adjusts the aperture.

Here’s the catch: You need a 64-bit device such as the iPhone 5S, iPad Air or iPad mini Retina to take advantage of all the new app’s capabilities. Nonetheless, even on the iPhone 5, I was able to see everything but the perspective change.

Anyone can view Lytro images via the app, even if you don’t own a light field camera. However if you want to Like or re-share living pictures, you have to register either by creating an account or logging in with Facebook.

Camera owners can upload photos their photos to the Lytro site or 500px via Wi-Fi or cellular.

Lytro Mobile App

This beautiful Facebook Cards concept is inspired by Google Now

Original post: Lytro revamps its iOS app to add a range of new interactive features, and iPad support

Dash’s Smart Driving App Arrives On iPhone

The Dash smart driving assistant that made its debut earlier this year on Android has launched on iPhone answering one of the most frequently heard requests from its users. The Dash app, which is backed by Techstars New York, connects to any ODB-II dongle that you can get for your car (most cars made since 1996 should have one that’s easily accessible) providing feedback about your trips like fuel efficiency and even info about vehicle diagnostics.

The on-board diagnostic (ODB) port on modern cars is something that is typically only used by mechanics, mainly when they’re trying to determine the reason behind warning lights that signal potential engine or other car problems. Dash plugs into that available data trove, connecting to an ODB dongle that has Bluetooth connectivity (which are available on Amazon starting as low as $10).

I’ve been using Dash with my vehicle for a while now, and it adds a lot to the driving experience. It can tell you what’s wrong with your car if a light activates on the dash, for instance, but it can also tell you how much it should cost to fix that problem at a reasonable rate, including a breakdown of parts vs. labor, and it can even let you turn the light off.

Dash also rates your trips, based on fuel efficiency and measures of driving skill, including how aggressively you’re braking. After each trip, the app will provide feedback about how you could’ve improved your score, which means increasing the energy and cost efficiency of your driving, and prolonging the life of your brake pads and engine parts. Other features include locating nearby gas stations and prices, as well as road emergencies and mechanics, all without having to leave the app.

Other startups have tackled this kind of ‘Fitbit for cars’ product, including Automatic, which also pairs its software with a proprietary ODB dongle called the Link. Dash’s app gives users flexibility on the hardware side in terms of what kind of money they’re willing to spend, however, and beyond that, its design is top-notch and already feels at home on iOS despite its Android debut.

Dash is optimized for U.S. use as of right now, and available only on the U.S. iTunes Store, but it’s a great (and free) solution for those looking to keep better track of their driving habits, either in order to optimize their automotive experience or just for curiosity’s sake.

See the original post here: Dash’s Smart Driving App Arrives On iPhone

Your tweets can help decide which World Cup finalist’s colors will light up Christ the Redeemer

The World Cup 2014 final is approaching, and that means one thing: time to deck yourself in the colors of the team you want to win. If you’re looking for another way to show your support, you can tweet to vote on which flag colors are shone on the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.

Hera 0 520x203 Your tweets can help decide which World Cup finalists colors will light up Christ the Redeemer

To cast your vote, you’ll need to include #ArmsWideOpen and the hashtag of one of the finalists [spoiler alert: Argentina and Germany] in your tweet. Voting started today, July 9, and runs through July 12. The Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro will light the statue from 7-9pm on Saturday. The team with the most votes will get more time, though the results will change in real-time as more fans vote.

It’s not every day that your tweets have an effect on a 100-foot religious icon.

Tweet and vote to light Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer in the colors of the World Cup finalists [Twitter]

Thumbnail credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images

Braintree integrates directly with PayPal in its new SDK

Link: Your tweets can help decide which World Cup finalist’s colors will light up Christ the Redeemer

Ring MyBell

If you’ve ever nearly ended up under an SUV or been doored by a sleepy minivan-driver, you’ll appreciate the MyBell. Designed by the folks at MyBell.co in Brooklyn, the $99 horn allows you to add up two digital audio files and multiple custom light patterns that will blast drivers with 105 decibels of noise and 110 lumens of light. The resulting cacophony should keep you out from under anyone’s wheels.

The team, Peter Pottier and Valentin Siderskiy, are avid cyclists. Siderskiy is an electrical engineer as well and they’ve hired Steve Remy to manage the mechanical engineering. They are in prototype stage right now but they aim to ship the horns to backers by February of next year. Early birds can get the street blasters for a $99 pledge.

“I set out to try and create a new audio signaling system, one which would be more effective than a traditional bell while simultaneously being friendlier than a popular alternative – the Air Horn,” said Pottier. “The customization feature dawned on me when I realized that sounds were relative to their surroundings – one sound might not have the same effect depending on different regions and cultures.” That’s the system lets you can drag the Ride of the Valkyries onto your device and scare passersby with a 100-decibel horn section. It connects to any bike or scooter with an easy-off latch system. Unlike the similarly cool Orp Horn, the audio and lights are both customizable so you can play the Knight Rider theme song with a slowly pulsing LED accompaniment.

Pottier knows the world needs this horn. He was recently hit by a car in Brooklyn and, had he had one of the prototypes on his bike, he would have been unharmed. Instead, he spent a little time in Brooklyn Hospital where they checked for broken bones. Luckily he’s OK, but without a signaling system, most city bikers are potential road meat.

Perhaps you could even add songs and sounds that could comment on others’ driving? Cee-Lo Green anyone?

More: Ring MyBell

Will The Last BlackBerry User Turn Off The Flashing LED Light

Today I switched from a BlackBerry Q10 to an iPhone 5s. After almost singlehandedly trying to save the physical QWERTY, I feel compelled to explain why.

It isn’t because of the ribbing I get from my TC colleagues every time BlackBerry issues more bad news. It isn’t because the only people I know who still use a BlackBerry are either VCs or angel investors. And I’ve yet to make the blogger-to-VC career move (here’s hoping).

It isn’t even because the keyboard on my Q10 has developed a hardware fault whereby occasionally it mistakes one key press for two, which makes keying in my lock-screen password a whole lot of fun. That’s right, folks. Even BlackBerry can’t seem to make a reliable hardware keyboard.

And it definitely isn’t because I’ve suddenly mastered typing on glass, despite having a physical disability that makes certain touchscreen interfaces and on-screen keyboards more challenging (see my email to Steve Jobs on the subject).

No, the reason I’ve finally given up on the BlackBerry — and with it my trusted physical QWERTY – is likely the reason every other BlackBerry user abandoned ship. Apps. Glorious apps.

In the end, I’ve decided to make a tradeoff. I’m willing to sacrifice typing speed and a little dexterity, in return for having access to a much wider range and higher quality of apps. Blame it on the day job.

What’s interesting is BlackBerry 10 does support Android apps — kind of.

The trouble is the Q10′s screen size makes many of those apps run poorly or not at all, with UI elements being squashed or cropped. It was enough to get by for a little while (and a technically impressive feat), but it only got me so far. The tipping point came this week while trying out a Wi-Fi-enabled lightbulb for a smarthome post I’m researching. I was able to dim the lights using the startup’s Android app running on my BlackBerry but couldn’t turn them back up again, leaving me stuck in the dark for a few hours.

Then I saw the light.

I ordered my iPhone 5s just a few hours ago, and it wasn’t without a heavy heart.

I’ll definitely miss BlackBerry 10′s gestures and the majority of its UI (I once had the privilege of chewing the fat with one of the ex-founders of TAT, the team behind much of that work — sorry guys).

I’ll also undoubtedly miss BlackBerry 10′s ‘openess’ in terms of side loading apps and full access over Wi-Fi to the phone’s storage. I definitely don’t relish being back in Apple’s closed ecosystem.

At the same time I’m grateful the iPhone in its current form factor exists. At one point in time, as the physical QWERTY was getting sidelined, the market was flooded with iPhone copycats. In some ways it still is. But, actually, as phones have gotten bigger, it’s Apple’s device that feels, well, traditional. Steadfast was Jobs’ assertion that the iPhone needed to remain narrow for one-handed operation.

It’s the size factor — and that iOS still tends to get first preference from newly launched startups — that largely ruled out Android for me. The closest to getting my hard-earned cash was something like the HTC One Mini, but even that is too wide. In a sea of “phablets,” a “mini” Android smartphone invariably comes in larger than the iPhone 5s, or with lower specs and build quality.

The iPhone 5s also feels remarkably light.

What I’ve come to realise is, although I get on better with a physical QWERTY and the non-touch screen area it affords when gripping the phone, equal to this is the right width, height and weight. In that sense, like BlackBerry before, it’s now Apple who looks like the holdout.

Unless, of course, the rumours of a much larger iPhone are true.

Link: Will The Last BlackBerry User Turn Off The Flashing LED Light

This DIY Geocaching Bracelet Shows The Power Of Wearables

Geocaching is a fun activity that involves finding little things hidden in the real world. The kids and I try to do it when we travel and we usually end up circling a bush for a few minutes before we all go and get ice cream. However, if you’re Greg Mayer you get down and dirty and create a crazy watch that can point you to distant GPS coordinates like some sort of computerized Mercury leading you into high adventure.

Like the DIY cellphone we talked about this week, this device is made of off-the-shelf components and can be recreated at will. It cost about $60 to build and required a bit of coding.

The idea to create this little contraption came from my Geocaching adventures with my nieces and nephew: my little device currently tells me where a dozen or so caches are located in Windsor, Ontario, but I’ve also configured it to point me towards coffee shops and other places closer to where I live.Each light in the device corresponds to a target within 1 km of my current location. Notice that as I rotate, the lights hold their approximate directions of the targets. Red indicates close, blue indicates very far away.

Simple projects like this one are truly inspiring. While we’re all fussing around with smartphones, the idea that we can create standalone, single-purpose devices for various uses – navigation, notification, and the like – is fascinating. And, while this device is obviously very fiddly, it’s clear that this hardware can be stuffed inside a smaller case in order to a create a truly self-contained navigation system.

This is the first of a new class of digital accessories – devices that aren’t that smart but work quite well for a specific purpose. As jewelry companies and other makers get in on the act, expect to see smart devices hidden inside stuff that used to be dumb.

Go here to read the rest: This DIY Geocaching Bracelet Shows The Power Of Wearables

7 things you can do right now to protect your vision

Andrea Ayres-Deets is the Lead Writer at Crew, an invite-only network connecting short-term software projects with handpicked developers and designers. Andrea writes about psychology, creativity, and business over on the Crew blog.


I spend all day on a computer. No, wait, that’s an understatement. I spend nearly every waking hour of every single day in front of a digital device.

By 4:00 p.m. my eyes are dry, bloodshot, and begging for relief. They are out of luck though because I have maybe four or five hours left of work here.

When it’s really bad, I can actually hear myself blinking.

The majority of us spend all of our work and free time in front of one form of digital device or another. It’s not difficult to protect your eyes from damage caused by the light emitted from screens, it just requires some knowledge and minor adjustments.

How long do you spend in front of a screen?

Four hours, Seven hours, more than ten? Most of us spend around 6-9 hours a day on a digital device, another 28% spend more than ten hours a day in front of one type of screen or another.

Your eyes can begin to feel strain in as little as two hours. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how good your eye sight is, all of that screen time isn’t good for you.

The eyes clean and moisten themselves each time you blink. Computer use reduces your blink rate by as much as five times. When you are on a computer you also more likely to have incomplete blinks. That is when a blink does not fully cover the cornea of your eye. This can result in eye strain, fatigue, and headaches.

Reduced blinking is most associated with Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). It sounds like something out of a failed Law and Orderepisode but it’s a real disorder. Symptoms include:

  • headaches
  • blurred vision
  • dry eyes
  • neck and shoulder pain
  • double vision
  • light sensitivity

Sound like anyone you know?

Light influences everything from our hormone secretion and heart rate, to our cognitive abilities. When we get too much, or not enough of the good kind of light, these biological and behavioral processes are effected. First things first, what happens when light first hits your eyes?

Well, most light passes through your cornea, lens, and macula:

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Cornea and Lens: responsible for absorbing much of the UV light that enters our eyes with the lens absorbing most shorter wavelength light.

Macula: absorb around 40% of high energy blue light.

The cornea, lens, and macula absorb electromagnetic radiation up to 460 nanometers (nm). Anything above 460 nm—like light from your computer screen—cannot be absorbed and that’s a problem. The 460 nm—1400 nm range is known as retinal hazard region. Light in that range goes directly into your retina and that can cause damage.

Blue light bad news

Blue light (or high-energy visible light) is bad for you when you are trying to sleep and it’s equally bad for you when you are working. All of your electronic devices give off this high-energy visible light (HEV).

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Blue light is able to pass through what is called the retinohypothalamic tract, or pathway. This pathway is responsible for regulating our circadian rhythm a number of other biological and behavioral processes.

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Because of how sensitive our eyes are to blue light, it is believed that it effects our behavioral and biological processes more than other types of light.

Early research into rat retina’s shows that the damage caused by blue light occurs in the rhodopsin. Rhodopsin is located in the rod of the eye and it is involved in our first perceptions of color. It kind of looks like a tangled up phone cord:

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Here’s where it gets interesting/terrifying:

So these rhodopsin are normally purpley-reddish in color, but when they are hit by light, they bleach. Rhodopsin decomposes when it is exposed to light, the bleaching is rhodopsin being changed into another compound.

It is only when you remove yourself from light that they regenerate into new purpley-reddish proteins. This is the natural cycle and it needs to happen in order for your vision to work properly.

Blue light causes rhodopsin to regenerate photochemically (meaning it happens in the presence of light instead of in its absence). The blue light causes your rhodopsin to become unbleached very quickly, much more so than when it occurs naturally. This allows more light to enter the retina before it is ‘ready’ which can cause damage to the sensitive cell tissue in your eyes.

So you take the cumulative effects of blue light and regular light and what you are left with is a big old mess. Our eyes don’t need any more help with wear and tear, it happens naturally as we age. Digital devices can compound and intensify this damage.

Okay, now that we’re all sufficiently depressed…

Here are seven simple things you can do right the eft now to help protect your vision:

Dim the lights

You want your computer screen to be the brightest thing in the room. If it’s possible you want to have your light mimic that of a fire, this means turning off or reducing overhead lights.

Make sure that your desk laps (task lighting) is setup to provide you with indirect light, you want your office space to have as few ‘bright spots’ as possible.

Reduce glare

Glare usually means there is one spot on your screen that is particularly bright. Your eyes have trouble adjusting to the brightness of the glare with the rest of the screen which can result in discomfort.

You could ask your employer for one of those handy-dandy anti-glare computer screens. If that’s not your style make sure your computer screen is away from a window and clean it regularly.

Minimize blue light exposure

You should definitely avoid exposing yourself to blue light at least 2-3 hours before bed, as it disrupts your circadian rhythm. During the day you can try programs like flux which adapts the color of your computer screen to the time of day.

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Follow the 20-20-20 rule

Look away from your computer or screen every 20 minutes and focus on a distant object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

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Make your workspace eye friendly

Most of us have our desks setup completely wrong, I’m especially guilty of this. I like to scrunch my neck up and hunch over my screen like a ghoulish fiend. Unsurprisingly, this is bad for you.

I’m no expert in ergonomics, nor do I have access to one, but this website can help you figure out how to optimize your workstation to protect your eyes. Here’s mine for a reference:

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Get some vitamin-A

Retinal is processed vitamin-A, and retinal is essential to the process your rhodopsin goes through when you perceive light. The average human needs between 700-900 micrograms per day…or 5,000 International Units (IU).

Sweet potatoes, carrots, leafy greens all have high levels of vitamin A in them, so get to noshing.

Listen to those ol’ eye sacks of yours

If your eyes feel tired, it’s not just you being annoyed with your work. That means that are actually tired. Don’t try to write off eye fatigue as something else because like most health issues, this one isn’t likely to get better when ignored.

If you feel eye strain or headaches, take a break. Try blinking slowly for ten times to re-wet your eyes. You can also trace a figure-8 pattern with your eyeballs, and cup or palm your hands over eyes. The idea is to give your eyes some variation which can provide you with some relief.

A few other tips for the not-so-right-now:

Try to have regular eye exams to keep track of your eye health and note any changes in your vision.

You could also look into buying some computer glasses, but having an eye exam first will help determine your need for such gadgetry.

And please, remember to wear some sunglasses when you are outside too.

After I finished research for this article, I may or may not have immediately done the following: purchased computer glasses, drank a ton of carrot juice, purchased lubricating eye-drops, and installed flux on my computer.

Overboard? Perhaps. If there’s anything I can do to help protect my eyesight, even a little bit, I figure it’s worth a shot.

We all want to work hard, but we shouldn’t have to sacrifice our health in order to do so. Making some of the changes I listed above can ensure that you can both work hard and protect your eyes at the same time. Woot!

Excerpt from: 7 things you can do right now to protect your vision

Ion Is A Wireless Smart Light That Reacts To Touch And Tunes

Make way for another smart light in the room. Ion, currently in production-ready prototype form seeking $20,000 from the Kickstarter community for its final push to market, is best described as a digital updating of the 1960s classic slice of kitsch called the lava lamp.

(It’s clearly no accident that Ion’s Michigan-based makers have named their company lava.)

Lava lamps are of course very long past their best. Those waxy innards aren’t quite as viscous as they used to be. And, well, let’s face it, they were always pretty dumb — reacting purely in an organic fashion to rising temperature, and lacking any user controls beyond the on/off switch.

Fast forward some half a century and Ion wants to update the lava lamp for our control-freakish times. This digital mood light is way more controllable and also reacts to its environment — thanks to Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, a bank of 40 tri-colour LEDs, a microphone, audio processing and capacitive touch sensors. The latter allows the current mood to be changed by tapping on the top of the lamp.

Plus there is the now pre-requisite app where users can select different colours to match their mood, much like Philip Hue‘s light recipes.

Except with Ion it’s not just colours on tap; users get to choose from various light displays — aka “moods”, which are basically different coloured flashes, pulses and spins (given aptly headachey names like ‘Pulse’, ‘Plasma’ and ‘Strobe’). The lamp will ship with 15 different moods out of the box — but lava says they plan to keep adding more as the Kickstarter campaign goes on, and after Ion ships.

The app also lets Ion owners set the brightness and speed of these displays, so you can dial down or up the headache-factor. Ion’s makers have built a website where you can remote-control their prototype to test the moods out yourself.

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The flagship feature of Ion is called ‘Rave’ mode — which does kind of hint at the demographic lava is targeting here. Rave mode utilizes the audio processing abilities of the lamp, meaning it listens to the music you’re playing and generates a real-time light show that’s in sync with your phat beats. In other words: party in your basement!

Low frequencies produce reds, mids produce greens, and highs produce blues. Every time a beat is detected (kick drum, bass, etc), you’ll see a bright pulse of light. Using the app, you can customize the emphasis of each color as you see fit.

Ion can also be have more subtle uses, though, such as notifications — albeit, it’s still taking the concept of hardware smartphone add-ons, like myLED or FLASHr, and sizing it up so that new Facebook missive or weather alert is rather harder to miss.

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Another use for the lamp is as a visual alarm clock — if waking up to a strobe is your kind of thing. There’s also an open API for developers to play around further. Lava says Ion can be controlled by a Raspberry Pi, as well as an Android or iOS device.

So how much is Ion going to cost? Its current Kickstarter entry point is $199, with an estimated delivery date of this August. The $20,000 in crowdfunds being sought by lava is needed to finalize Ion’s firmware, build the iOS and Android apps, and scale production, it says.

See more here: Ion Is A Wireless Smart Light That Reacts To Touch And Tunes