Sandhill Cranes in Flight

Sandhill Cranes in flight at Merced National Wildlife Refuge.

This is an image from my new Central Valley Refuges portfolio.

  • Species:
    Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis)
  • Date Taken:
    November 2, 2013
  • Location:
    Merced National Wildlife Refuge
  • Camera:
    Canon 7D
  • Lens:
    Canon 70-200l F2.8 IS II + 2.0x TC
  • Tags:
    Bird, California, Merced County, Merced National Wildlife Refuge, Sandhill Crane
Posted in Photo of the Day

Sandhill Crane in Flight

A Sandhill Crane in flight at Merced National Wildlife Refuge.

This is an image from my new Central Valley Refuges portfolio.

  • Licensing:
    This image available to license through TandemStock Agency
  • Species:
    Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis)
  • Date Taken:
    March 13, 2011
  • Location:
    Merced National Wildlife Refuge
  • Camera:
    Canon 7D
  • Lens:
    Canon 300 F4 + 1.4x TC
  • Tags:
    Bird, California, Cranes, Flying, Merced County, Merced National Wildlife Refuge, One, Sandhill Crane, United States
Posted in Photo of the Day

My first reaction to the new iPhone and Watch

I wanted to write a bit about my initial reactions to today’s announcements and the Watch.

My thoughts in many ways mimic Duncan’s.

The new Watch is about time about as much as the iPhone is about making phone calls. Sure, it does so nicely and in a way that’s in truly in the spirit of the first watches which miniaturized technology to put it as close to you as possible, not just be a vehicle for being something pretty you wear. But, as a really natural progression in wearable computing, it’s so much more than that. Sure, Apple’s not first. They rarely are for any particular point technology. Google, Samsung, LG, and Motorola really worked hard to get their entries out there before now. But, if it truly lives up to its promise, Apple’s new watch brings a level of competence to the wearable space that’s unprecedented and very welcome.

I think an essential difference between Apple and other vendors is that other vendors see a possible product like this and try to figure out what it can do and then ship a product that does that. Apple figures out how people will want to use it, and then builds a product that lets them do those things. That’s a much different and much harder product path and few companies have the willingness to spend the time and energy to get there.

But first, iPhone 6. I really like it. I like the look, I like the design. I love the upgrades to the camera. I’m going to order them for both myself and Laurie, but we’re at the natural time for upgrades since we’re both carrying iPhone 5’s and skipped the last generation. I’m assuming Laurie will also go for the smaller one but I haven’t asked yet. The big one is interesting, but I think I’ll opt for portability (and lots of memory). I had a few discussions about the 16Gb device where people were complaining about them squeezing people on the price, but I think it’s really aimed at making a price point and for those people who don’t do much in apps, aren’t hauling around video, and really for the emerging markets. I expect most people in the US will likely upgrade to the middle product and its expanded memory.

I’m in, happily. I think it’s a really nice, solid upgrade that continues to push the iPhone forward.

ApplePay: This was a market area ripe for disruption, but it had to come from a company big enough to scale the technology into enough people’s hands to make it worth the time of the card companies and retailers to update their systems to support it. I’m not sure anyone but Apple could have pulled this together and made it happen.

One thing I’m curious about — is Apple subsidizing the replacement cost for all of those point of sale units in any way? That’s been the big sticking point in making this change in payment happen for years, and is to electronic payments what the supercharger availability is to the Tesla. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit that Apple put money into the pool to get those units out into the stores. Also notable to me is Apple’s statement it’s not taking a cut on transaction costs in the payment network. Instead, it’s building this out because it knows it’ll help sell a zillion phones, especially upgrades to existing users. Not inconsequential is that I expect they have a one or two year head start on other device vendors before they can fully support this new network, and that’ll drive platform swaps once this hits the stores and starts being “real” to people (as opposed to a good presentation). it definitely creates some interesting product differentiations. And I like it, and it’s well overdue.

Also stop and think about how long it probably took for Apple and Visa and Amex and Mastercard (where’s Discover? Now behind the curve) and the various retail chains to hash out all of the details and the agreements. The negotiations and the planning for this has to have taken 2-3 years. Now stop and think about how the card companies have been dragging their heels about updating their terminals and units even though it’s been generally known we need it? think maybe it was because they knew this was on its way and didn’t want to be pushed into those upgrades before the whole thing was ready? Especially if Apple is paying for a chunk? I wish someone in the media had asked that question (if they did, I didn’t see it).

I, frankly, am happy we’re finally moving away from the current system, and I can’t think of any device vendor than Apple who could figure out how to get everyone on the same page and making it happen. (as Gruber might say, “Finally”). Well done, although obviously, we need to see how it’ll work in detail.

And, the Watch. (oh, for those wondering, the HTML entity is Watch). I am both really damned impressed and find myself with some mixed feelings about it.

First, the mixed feelings: I’m not totally convinced about the form factor of the watch unit itself. I’m going to have to go and try one out and put it on my wrist to see if it’s comfortable and something I’m going to want to wear. I’m at first reaction tempted to go for the smaller model (which I love that they didn’t call that the Ladies model).

On the other hand, the work put into the straps and the connectors just blew me away. I love the styling and there were at least three that had “GIMME” written all over them. It may be the straps are the killer app of this product and will convince many to buy this product.

Make no mistake, this is a product built to sell into a fashion-sensitive market (e.g “normal people”), not “just” geeks, and I think it succeeds wildly at that. The design of the thing is fascinating and the engineering behind that design is wonderful. The weakest aspect of the design might be the watch itself, and it’s hard to really tell that until I get my hands on it. I could well be wrong.

As far as the functionality, I love it. I love the idea of being able to not have to pull out the phone to check on an incoming email or instant message. This form factor helps me keep the phone in the pocket, which is my ultimate goal (a bluetooth earbud that doesn’t make me look like a geek would help a lot, too. Most are still too bulky and uncomfortable for me to be willing to wear chronically)

What it helps do is reduce interruption and distraction, and non-trivially, reduce the “wait, I need to check my phone” interruptions that I think are somewhat on the rude side (both when they happen to me and when I do them) in the middle of conversations. This kind of device and UI should help you keep your focus and still not miss a key notification.

I also see the opportunity for this to turn into an alarm clock that doesn’t wake up your partner. Depending on battery life, which is still a big unknown. The way Apple handled it today worries me a little, but I also get the feeling that’s something they’re still working on to improve.

The health aspects that come with IOS 8 are quite interesting and with upgrading the iPhone, I’ll be able to take advantage of some of the features that aren’t available with the iPhone 5. The sophistication impresses me. What I’m not sure about yet is how much value I’ll find having that on my arm on a watch as opposed to in my pocket on a phone.

So my bottom line on the announcements today: iPhone 6: total winner, with my preference the smaller phone. If you want the bigger one, great. I could see doing that in a generation or two when the Watch is more mature and the phone becomes the carry-around central processor and less a “phone” (my ultimate goal is something I carry to handle processing needs for devices of all sizes, with iPad, Watch becoming basically thin terminals to this main processor, and docking to the home computing unit for sync and for heavy lifting processing).

The watch I’m convinced about what they’re doing, not 100% convinced about this generation.

ApplePay: about time, and when it rolls out, I’ll roll in.

The health tools: loving what I see, but I need to figure out how they’ll integrate into my life in detail. but I can’t wait.

So I give the overall keynote between an A and an A- in technology, execution and tone. It’s clear Apple’s been working toward this day for years and is immensely proud of the result, and they deserve to be.

One quick note on the lifestream: I feel bad for the folks trying to hold that together, but it was pretty clear that however they’d tried to scale it, it wasn’t enough. I’m curious how many streams they were managing at any one time, I think the number will astound and scare most geeks. No matter how much you build out the network, it’s a finite resource, and Apple keynotes seem very capable of reaching that limit no matter what they do… I wonder if it was possible to scale to meet demand today, given the interest levels. But it sucked that the announcements are somewhat tainted by the technical flaws in the streaming.

All in all, I came away feeling good about Apple’s direction and continued ability to innovate. Good job all around. Now, of course, they need to execute and make it all work, and work reliably.

Posted in Computers and Technology