Rate Me? Sure

You know those iOS apps that nag you with a pop-up screen and asks your review? Usually the text in pop-up goes something like this, “If you like this app, please rate it”. (This actually doesn’t seem very democratic since the sentence actually only encourages those who like the app to review it, thus giving positive review.)

Quite frankly, I think iOS has a problem. This is super annoying. The popups appear again and again even if I rate the app or click “don’t bother me again”, or equivalent. Apparently it seems that the app doesn’t track what the user does (or doesn’t care), the popup will come again and again.

I actually do what John Gruber suggests. 1 star for every app that annoys me with the request, and a short explanation.

Sinking Ship

via Tech Crunch:

We hear and understand your concerns, and we always want to ensure that we’re acting within the spirit with which the community has contributed. Given the varied reactions, as a first step, we’ve decided to remove the pool of Creative Commons-licensed images from Flickr Wall Art, effective immediately. We’ll also be refunding all sales of Creative Commons-licensed images made to date through this service.

Although technically they didn’t break Creative Commons licence, this is just bad ethics. As manager of the community they should at least somehow serve the users, not rip them off.

It is also worth mentioning the last point in their community guidelines:

“Don’t use Flickr for unauthorized commercial activity.
Flickr is a photo community for people to share, explore and discover new works. We also offer tools for the community to license their works to others; if interested, visit our Marketplace.”

What this unauthorised commercial activity means is not explained clearly but quite obviously they are just protecting their own commercial interests.

The Long Voyage Home

Do you remember first Hayabusa?  It was an unmanned space craft launched by JAXA in 2003 to gather samples from asteroid  25143 Itokawa. The journey was not without a drama.

Despite it’s adversities the mission was a great success. Hayabusa accomplished it’s primary mission, to bring tiny grains of asteroidal material to earth. It’s a mind-boggling achievement. I don’t know what kind of funding JAXA has but I doubt it’s even tenth of NASA or ESA.

Now that Hayabusa 2 is just launched, I thought it’s nice to finally check out the 2012 film. It’s by the way, now in hulu.jp.

The movie is a nice dramatization of the space craft’s seven years voyage. The old computers and CRTs and makes this movie feel delightfully analog and nostalgic. There’s mood of the early 2000, which strangely feels like another era.

The film conveys the spirit of the Hayabusa mission, tangibly. Japan’s film industry might have seen better days but it’s really nice to find a film with a spirit like this. Watanabe Ken’s performance is amazing as usual. He can convey so much, while doing so little in screen.  Legendary Tsutomu Yamasaki is also in the movie among other great actors such as Hidetaka Yoshioka (Always Sanchome no Yuhi) and Yui Natsukawa (Still Walking). Fantastic cast, really.

Although the movie suffers from being slightly a bit too long and has some editing problems (and VFX could use some polish) it tells a beautiful and inspiring human story. The pieces come together a very nice way in the end, especially the last snapshot of the earth sent by Hayabusa (is that real by the way?) .

JAXA logo is well present in the movie but I don’t remember seeing a single flag of the country in the movie. This movie does not fall into Hollywood-like boasting “we are king of the world”, despite of the remarkable achievement.  The heroes of this movie are the people who worked hard to make Hayabusa’s journey reality, and of course Hayabusa itself.

Japan needs inspiring stories like this now more than ever. Check out Hayabusa: The Long Voyage Home in IMDB.

ps. I would guess Hayabusa 2’s reaction wheels are not the ones made in USA.

Snapselect

via TUAW.

I have several old Aperture libraries lying around in my hard disk, and also massive Lightroom catalog. Without the application they were created it can be a major pain to access the images. It’s worth mentioning that Apple has officially stopped development of Aperture, so in future the application will likely go away entirely.

Snapselect is a software that can access the images in those libraries. Currently it supports iPhoto, Aperture and Lightroom and fully supports RAW.

According to the creators, Snapselect can also find duplicates of the images.

I will check it out and write a review soon.

 

 

Kawori Inbe

DSCF5546

Meeting Kawori Inbe became one of the most memorable moments of 2014 for me. It was a big pleasure for me to visit her private exhibition in Ebisu.

Her photo book “Time to go back.. to the moon” (Published by AKAAKA) is one of the strongest photo books I have recently found. It’s a silent documentary of living women. It’s both brutally honest and painfully beautiful. As Inbe says in the book,

Of all the emotions people have, I feel that “anger” manifests the will to live most, so I want to draw out and capture a pointed look from subjects when shooting. I find “anger” to be root of all emotions that temper life: a sense of inferiority, sorrow, despair, etc.”

Perhaps however, even more than it shows the life of her subjects, it shows the vivid and colourful soul of the photographer. This is human photography as it’s best. Only she can do this, I thought. She further says in her book,

People are the product of the energy they have, so I want to capture the soul behind the face and body.

This is, indeed what her photos accomplish so well. It would be easy to shoot something like this and do it for the wrong reasons, focus in the drama or bruises. But her camera focuses deeper. Her love and deep respect for her subjects can be felt. There is always strong sense of place and atmosphere in her images, and it just makes so much sense. These are photos that are painfully genuine and beautiful.

Meeting her personally was very interesting experience although I admit I felt somehow so shy in her company. I really envy her. We are almost same age. She was born just a year after me. But the difference between me and her is that she has been shooting way longer than me; with her I am a newbie, total beginner.

Her studying eyes framed in her lovely red glasses spoke a lot, in a language that I could instantly understand. Her voice was warm, and although we spoke of very substantial matters she always kept her documentarist-like cool. I felt her passion for her work obviously and strongly. This is a true cameraman; I thought.

When I asked her autograph she drew “okomecyan”, a rice seed character holding a Japan’s flag, and her sign with signature star. I gave her a hug and wished her well deserved success. Bravo, Inbe-san!

Indeed, I hope that she continues her journey as a photographer. Something tells me that she certainly will. Check out her book Time to go back.. to the moon in AKAAKA Art Publishing website. It’s also available in Amazon. Finally, here is her official site.

iPhone 6 Review

When iPhone 6 first came out, I thought I would never upgrade to it, but instead stick with my iPhone 5. But the battery life of my phone was getting worse and worse. I live near SoftBank Shop and I just kept dropping in to check out that gorgeous screen..

I have now used iPhone 6 for about a month. So I am ready to write my experiences with it.

Design

Apple has a remarkable legacy behind it what comes to industrial design. They designed the colourful iMac series, then the amazing flat screen “snow ball” iMac G4. They made iPod. The computers they make exhibit all great industrial design sense. I love especially the new Macbook Pro which is, by all means, extremely well designed piece of equipment. It has clean lines and is thin and light.

Apple’s phones have always been well designed too. My favourite of the bunch is the glass encased iPhone 4. It’s extremely ambitious and beautiful design. Steve Jobs even compared it to the old Leica Camera. It’s example of a design which has achieved harmony between form and function.

iPhone 5 also is a nice design. It also demonstrated a kind of simplicity although it was definably less cute and more industrial; I personally kind of liked that, especially the black model. It looked like monolith from 2001: Space Odyssey.

Now to tell truth, I don’t know what to think about iPhone 6 design. It is not awful, and definably still one of the nicest smartphones I have ever seen. What comes to ergonomics, this phone is comfortable to hold. It feels just right and I had no issues with the sleep/wake button being moved to the right side. The design choices are speaking practical.

Visually however, I don’t know what to say. The phone looks like pre unibody Macbook Pro which had those grey plastic stripes running in the edges. The segmented back looks like a skeleton of an early prototype, and the protruding camera lens makes it look more fragile than it probably is.  I like the large speaker holes on the bottom which look kinda sporty, but otherwise, it almost seems if the iPhone has lost it’s design identity. This is just another thin metal and glass rectangle. This doesn’t even lay flat on a table.

Smaller size iPhone 6 feels really good in my hand and the larger size is diminished by it’s thinness; this still doesn’t feel bulky.  The phone feels very solid. I have dropped mine (accidentally) couple of times on floor; not a scratch, but maybe I was lucky. The curved glass seems to be more prone for shatter as my friend found out. In terms of durability and shock resistance the new design is clearly a step back, despite the reduced weight.

Technology

The display is gorgeous. It’s again improvement over the predecessor by contrast and clarity. The pixel density haven’t changed in the smaller model, there are just more of them. But the colours are much better; the display exhibits controlled saturation and rather neutral white balance, although the display is warmer than in Macbook Pro display (by standard calibration).

Since I work with images, the display is the main reason why I bought the phone. Photos look indeed great on this. And now there’s room for extra row of icons in home screen if you so choose. The added screen estate is of course a welcome thing.

The camera is ridiculously good. It’s so good that I am always taking my phone out when shooting in studio environment for test shots, to experiment some camera angles and different lighting. I came out comparing them to my 5D Mark II shots with off camera flashes and whole shebang. Here is unprocessed shot with iPhone 6 using the default camera app with only a single light source, no flash.

IMG_0629

The colors are accurate and surprisingly neutral; there is no over saturation and most of the tones are reproduced faithfully. The photos turn out extremely sharp. Low light performance is amazing for a camera phone and phase detection autofocus is almost as accurate as with 5D Mark II even in relatively low light.

I don’t use the iPhone 6 flash, although it might work as a fill flash in a pinch.

Apple’s camera app however feels clunky to use. I am not big fan of the exposure control, I always accidentally keep changing the camera mode and rotating the phone it’s impossible to know which direction I should move my finger, and then gripping the phone in landscape orientation I hit accidentally the sleep button or the lower button which acts as a shutter button. I am definably looking for a better alternatives which certainly exist.

Video is improved too;  the biggest deal here is the slow-mo which is can now shoot whopping 240fps. This is more than a gimmick, the movies are real slow motion videos which can be imported to FCPX and used as a part of a movie. The video quality is so good that I can’t see why this can’t be used for broadcast. This offers some interesting artistic opportunities which have been out of my reach until now.

And iPhone 6 feels of course fast and all is great, iPhone 5 was no slouch and this new one is just extremely fluid experience. Moving around with apps is instant, there is almost no lag at all, and animations play really fluently. There are few annoying quirks with iOS8 but overall, I love it.

Also, for me this phone is first device that has Touch ID and I love it so much that I want to register my tongue so I can unlock my phone with it. It works, and it works great; especially when purchasing things from App Store.

Battery life is definably improvement to iPhone 5. Now mine lasts comfortably through a day even with a heavy user like me. There’s often even a charge left during late evening. I usually charge mine using the larger iPad charger or computer; and iPhone 6 charges to 100% amazingly fast. It takes like half an hour. That’s really good thing.

Conclusion

iPhone 6 is extremely good phone and I am really glad I chose to update. Biggest improvements in my experience are the screen, camera and battery. The screen is not only bigger but better. If I were to review iPhone 6 what comes to the overall UI and technology, I would rate this 9 or 10/10.

The industrial design is so-so and it makes me wonder about the direction Apple is taking in their future products. It seems almost as if Apple is putting priority on releasing technology products for competition rather than being a company that aims for perfection in industrial design without compromises.

I wish the overall design of iPhone 6 would be more ambitious from standpoint of simplicity and elegance.

Nonetheless, I can recommend iPhone 6 for those thinking to upgrade.

Retina Macbook Pro Early Impressions

So it happened that my boy spilled some orange juice on my 13″ old Macbook Pro. The beverage found it’s way inside the machine through the air vents in the display hinge. Display stopped working. Since fixing it would likely mean replacing the logic board, and the machine was starting to show it’s age anyway, I thought I might just as well buy new machine. I was first thinking about Macbook Air 13″ which would be a nice replacement to my old machine.

But when I saw the retina display MacBooks, I just thought, heck, since I’m buying new machine, why not to buy a proper notebook computer.

I chose 15″ retina Macbook Pro with default configuration, 8 gigs of ram, 256 SSD and Quad Core i7. (Late 2013).

I have now used the machine for five days, and I am very impressed. The display is amazing. It’s not only sharp, but also displays accurate colours. Perhaps the colours are not as rich as in my professional Mitsubishi monitor, but they seem to be very accurate even without calibration. Glare is very well under control, in fact it’s hard to notice any glare even in brightly lit rooms. Viewing angle is amazingly wide.

Machine is superfast. Applications start almost instantly. Booting up happens in seconds.

I edited couple of interviews with FCPX and there was no delays or dropped frames. Exporting to Vimeo was very fast. I am yet to try multiple simultaneous video tracks but there is no doubt that this machine will outperform my old Mac Pro Quad Core Xeon what comes to video editing.

8 gigs of ram might be kind of limiting, and it’s the only thing that I am slightly worried about. We’ll have to see how well Maverick’s dynamic memory compression is going to work.

I will write complete review of this machine after I have put it into more serious use. My first impression however, is very very positive.