The Paradox of iPhone

There was a time when getting a new iPhone was a simple decision. The only choices you had to make were colour (black or white) and storage size. Everything else was the same.

Today, there's no such thing as "the best iPhone". It doesn't matter which one you choose, you'll have to make a compromise.

For example:

  • iPhone: This is the "normal" one (right now the iPhone 7). It's a fine device, but you'll get a lesser camera and miss out on Portrait Mode and image stabilisation. And personally, I find it too big.
  • iPhone Plus: This one has the latest technology. You get the best camera and everything that comes with it, but you better have big pockets to carry it around. If you want a huge phone you're fine. But if like me, you don't, then compromising on size isn't even an option.
  • iPhone SE: This is the perfect size for me, but there are too many compromises: older camera, older chip, no barometer, lack of features such as 3D Touch, and you're mid-cycle (and who knows if it'll ever be updated).

A few years ago, when I upgraded from the iPhone 5s to the iPhone 6, I wrote an article with my thoughts on this and why I just did not like the size and form factor of the new iPhone. For the first time, I was disappointed with my purchase and seriously considered switching back to the 5s.

I never got used to it.

Also for the first time, I did not upgrade to the iPhone 6s. I just didn't like the size. And I didn't want to go through the mental angst, again, of having to choose between a huge phone or a lesser camera. I only got an iPhone 7 in January this year because I gave my old one to my dad. I would still be carrying my iPhone 6 today otherwise.

Apple used to make these decisions easy.

Now I feel like my 7 year old trying to decide which flavour of ice cream to get. Instead of being a great experience I'm looking forward to, getting a new iPhone has become a stressful experience I dread. Yes, I know how that sounds. It's true though.

What I really want is the latest tech in the size of the SE.

I do not want to have to compromise on the camera or features. And I certainly don't want to spend time analysing different iPhone models to decide which one is the lesser compromise.

I just cannot get the iPhone I want because it doesn't exist.

Every time I think about it I remember The Paradox of Choice. In that book, Barry Schwartz gives an example of buying jeans. It's the same thing with iPhones today. Too many choices.

Next week Apple will announce the new iPhones. The rumour is they'll release the "S" versions of the current ones and a higher end model that some people are calling iPhone Pro or iPhone X or iPhone 8.

Here's hoping that new one brings us back to an easier choice where the only considerations, other than price, are colour and storage size.

I'd love to see an SE sized iPhone with all the latest tech.

But if they keep the same size as the regular iPhone, no matter what decision I make, getting an iPhone will be a compromise. That is not what I expect from Apple.

Take me to your Lizard

From So long, and thanks for all the fish by Douglas Adams. At this point in the story, an alien spaceship has landed on planet Earth. The doors open and a robot comes out...

‘I come in peace,’ it said, adding after a long moment of further grinding, ‘take me to your Lizard.’

Ford Prefect, of course, had an explanation for this, as he sat with Arthur and watched the nonstop frenetic news reports on television, none of which had anything to say other than to record that the thing had done this amount of damage which was valued at that amount of billions of pounds and had killed this totally other number of people, and then say it again, because the robot was doing nothing more than standing there, swaying very slightly, and emitting short incomprehensible error messages.

‘It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…’

‘You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?’

‘No,’ said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, ‘nothing so simple. Nothing anything like to straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.’

‘Odd,’ said Arthur, ‘I thought you said it was a democracy.’

‘I did,’ said Ford. ‘It is.’

‘So,’ said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, ‘why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?’

‘It honestly doesn’t occur to them,’ said Ford. ‘They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.’

‘You mean they actually vote for the lizards?’

‘Oh yes,’ said Ford with a shrug, `of course.’

‘But,’ said Arthur, going for the big one again, ‘why?’

‘Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,’ said Ford, ‘the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?’

‘What?’

‘I said,’ said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, ‘have you got any gin?’

‘I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.’

Ford shrugged again.

‘Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them,’ he said. ‘They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.’

Every time I read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy I find new things that somehow seem prescient.

The Babel Fish might become a reality!

I was about 13 when I first read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I remember thinking it was so different from anything I'd read before and I loved everything about it. It was the first time I laughed out loud while reading a book. It also made me think. I felt like I knew the characters and was right there with them through their adventures.

But what I really wish I'd had was a Babel Fish.

Well, it looks like technology is getting there. Waverly Labs is developing an earpiece that can translate called Pilot. They explain it like this:

At the convergence of wearable technology + machine translation, the Pilot is the world’s first smart earpiece which translates between users speaking different languages.

This promo video is fun. I want one.

Ulysses on iPhone and iPad Pro!

Ulysses is awesome. I've used it for years on both my Mac and my iPad and it truly is a great app. The one thing that was missing was an iPhone version so I could do quick edits on the go or write while on a plane or somewhere I didn't have access to either Mac or iPad but inspiration struck. I used Deadulus Touch for that, but it wasn't the same.

Then I got an iPad Pro. And while Ulysses for iPad worked great for the most part I did miss split view and the full keyboard.

Well, the guys have just released the new version and it's universal and updated for the iPad Pro.

Photographer showcase: Sebastião Salgado

A few years ago I took a photojournalism course. Part of the curriculum required each of the students to do a presentation about a prominent photographer. I was assigned Sebastião Salgado. I knew a little about his photography then, but I'm really glad I got to study his career and achievements a little bit deeper.

Sebastião Salgado, born in Brazil in 1944, is today regarded as one of the world's best photojournalists. He began his career as an economist, obtaining a Master in Economics from Sao Paulo University in Brazil, and later completing coursework for a PhD at Paris University, France. In 1973, while working as an economist for the International Coffee Organisation in London, he decided to switch to photography and the rest, as they say, is history. He went on to travel the world to create a truly amazing body of work. Salgado worked for celebrated agencies like Magnum and Gamma, and since 1994 has his own called Amazonas Images.

His work consists mostly of photo-essays or long-term documentary projects. Looking at his books, one gets the impression that what matters is not so much a single photograph, but the story behind a series. Don't get me wrong, every single one of his photographs is amazing in its own right, but looking at a body of work is so much more powerful.

Salgado's bio in Amazonas Images lists the following as his main photographic essays.

1978: On the problems of accommodations and living conditions in the "4000 Habitations," La Courneuve, suburb of Paris. Work ordered by the Local Council in order to create a major exhibition exposing this problem.
1979: Photographic research on the varying degrees of success of how immigrants have integrated themselves in European Society. Work mainly carried out in France, Holland, Germany, Portugal and Italy.
1977/1984: Research on the living conditions of peasants and the cultural resistance of the Indians and their descendants in Latin America. Work mainly carried out from Mexico to Brazil.
1986/1992: Documentary project on the end of large-scale manual labor, working in 26 countries.
1994/1999: "Population Movements around the World." Thirty-six photographic investigations on migration, throughout the world.
2001: Series of reportages on the global polio eradication campaign done by UNICEF and WHO.

In 2013 he did the following talk at TED.

Salgado is no doubt one of the photographers I admire the most. I strongly recommend everyone to have a look at his work, you won't be disappointed. His work is truly remarkable and profoundly inspiring.

ON1 Effects 10 FREE!

For a few years now, I've been using ON1 products for my photography. The latest version of their entire collection of apps, ON1 Photo 10, is now a key part of my workflow. The full version includes Browse, Effects, Resize, Portrait, Enhance, and Layers.

But this week, the team at ON1 decided to release a free version of ON1 Effects 10 packed with features. The free version includes a good selection of the effects of the full version.

Here's what they say:

ON1 Effects 10 FREE includes a select number of stackable effects (filters, presets, borders, and textures) from the full version of ON1 Effects 10. In all, over a hundred photo effects are included.

Two of the most popular ON1 filter categories have been added in the latest release. These are the Dynamic Contrast Filter and the HDR Look Filter. New preset categories for Color Grading, Faded and Matte Looks, and Haze Reducing are also available.

Effects 10 FREE includes the ON1 Perfect Brush technology. The edge detection in the Perfect Brush allows users to brush their effect(s) on specific areas of a photo.

The masking tools allow users to selectively mask or paint in effects on parts of photos. Add any effect to or remove it from a specific part of a photo with a simple brush stroke. The set of masking tools are easy to use and perfect for local adjustments, such as brightness, contrast, and detail.

The Filter Stack allows users to combine different effects to create and customize their own looks. Each effect can be applied to its own layer users can adjust and fine-tune.

ON1’s Perfect B&W module is also integrated into Effects 10 FREE, which lets users apply the included filters—including the popular Dynamic Contrast effect—to monochrome photos.

That last one is the killer for me and I can't believe they include it in the free version. ON1’s Perfect B&W module is incredible. If your work includes black and white photography you definitely need to check it out. Highly recommended.

You can get ON1 Effects 10 FREE from here.

Best TV shows of 2015 (link)

Gabe Weatherhead published a list of his favourite TV shows of 2015. I haven’t watched any of them yet, but several are on my list. I tend to stick to one show at a time.

One comment he made that I find interesting is:

Maybe I'm abnormal, but it's really thrilling that Netflix and Amazon are both making some of the best television around. I haven't cared what was playing on the big three for quite a long time. Unfortunately it's also getting harder to avoid subscriptions to Netflix and Amazon Prime for anyone that's interested in the future of television.

I feel the same way. Ever since I got Netflix, which wasn’t that long ago since it hadn’t officially launched in Australia until recently, I haven’t had the desire to find content elsewhere aside from a couple of shows (e.g. GOT). There’s just so much content in Netflix and the original series I’ve watched have been pretty good for the most part, with a few excellent ones.

Other than at hotel rooms, I haven’t watched live TV in over a year. The few times I’ve turned the hotel TV on it just makes me angry. Most of the content is idiotic crap broken up by way too much, embarrassingly bad advertising. Cable, at least in Australia, is just as bad. Crap content filled with ads. And you have to pay for that?

Fortunately, Netflix has streaming figured out to the point that it works well from an old iPad on hotel Wi-Fi, so there’s no need to watch crap TV anymore.

Personally, I’m also thrilled that Netflix (can’t get Amazon Prime in Australia) is producing so much great content. I have no issues paying the subscription if it gives me the best shows with no advertising. It’s a great business model.

To contribute to Gabe’s list, here are my favourite shows of 2015 in Netflix:

  • Narcos: Season 1 is based in the story of Pablo Escobar. Most of it takes place in Colombia and it’s in Spanish, which makes it feel very authentic. The actors are native speakers and do a great job. It reminded me of Breaking Bad a bit.

  • Sense8: Written and produced by the Wachowski brothers and J. Michael Straczynski. It’s a weird one about eight people with completely different and separate lives that become linked and can see, feel, do, and experience each other. I bet this one is a love it or hate it one. I thought it was brilliant.

  • Peaky Blinders: I only started watching this one last week and based on the first 3 episodes I think it’ll be a good one.

Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead 2015

The Day of the Dead, or Día de Muertos, is one of many Mexican traditions that has captured the imagination of people all over the globe. It's even inscribed in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

It's hard to explain if you're not Mexican and haven’t grown up with it.

Many years ago, while at university in Mexico, I took a contemporary art class with a French lecturer. She was really nice and knew her stuff. The class was interesting and engaging and I remember enjoying attending, which didn’t happen often. She'd only been in Mexico for a few months when the Day of the Dead came and I'm not sure what she expected. Surely she’d read about it and seen the beautiful, if eerie, imagery that’s associated with the celebration.

But she clearly wasn’t ready for what happened. Several of my classmates brought her a small skull made of sugar with her name written in the forehead.

This is not only common, but it’s in fact a very nice gesture. Kids love them. It’s basically a huge block of sugar with some more sugary stuff to decorate it. We think it’s funny.

She didn’t think it was funny at all.

She panicked. The next class she didn’t show up. We waited for a while and then all went on our ways. On the following week the head of the department came to the class to explain what had happened. She didn’t understand the skulls and thought we all hated her and wanted her dead! She was so disturbed by it that she decided to quit.

As I said, it’s difficult to explain.

Anyway, I love the short film above and thought it’d be a good time to share it. Enjoy. I hope.

This is when you know Apple screwed up iCloud storage for iOS

This is going to be an interesting conversation. (Sorry Mom if you're reading this).

How the hell do I explain what this message means to someone that's not a geek and couldn't care less about understanding geeky stuff. She just wants her iPhone to work.

We'll iCloud storage plans don't "just work".

And replying to my Mom with a "just subscribe to the US0.99 plan per month" is a stupid idea. First of all, she'll ask why. And rightly so. Which will only open a can of worms if I try to explain what it's doing in the background. She just doesn't care and nor she should. Second, she'll probably be pissed off that she has to pay a monthly fee for something that makes no sense to her and she sees absolutely no need for.

Now, I do see the value and pay for a 50gb plan right now. And I know that once I start to really use Photos I'll upgrade to the 200gb. But I'm a geek and she isn't. She's only using iCloud storage to back up her iPhone even though she doesn't know it.

As it is, iCloud storage is only causing my mom angst. And I'm pretty sure that's the opposite of what Apple wants to cause its users.

A good solution is if I could share my plan with her and take care of it all. I'd be happy to pay for a 1tb plan if I could share it with my family and make these emails go away.