News Flash: Apple to acquire Dickies’s

new iPhone 6 Plus pants
new iPhone 6 Plus pants

An unidentified source reports that Apple is concerned with the backlash from the size of the new iPhone 6 Plus. Reminiscent of “antenna gate” Apple has quietly proposed a solution.

Apple is in negotiations to acquire the clothing company Dickie’s. Apple will announce a new clothing line which accommodates the larger size of the iPhone 6 Plus. People who already ordered an iPhone 6 Plus will be given a free pair of pants.

AutoStitch iPhone app vs iPhone’s camera panorama

180 degree panorama 7704x1822
180 degree panorama 7704×1822

I take more photos with my iPhone than my two ‘real’ cameras combined. While the iPhone isn’t great for action photos or any telephoto work, it does very well as landscapes. With it’s built in compute power it is perfectly suited to panoramas.

While I’ve played with the panorama feature built into the iOS camera app, I always use the AutoStitch app when I want good results.

With the built in feature of iOS, the panorama is photographed in one continuous image. With AutoStitch, it is a series of overlapping images computationally combined. It’s more work – why is this better? I like it for two reasons: First, when taking individual photographs, each one can adjust for brightness. When combined with the iOS subtle HDR capability, each picture is very well balanced. Most panoramas will pass through both bright and shaded areas. By taking photos with a lot of overlap, AutoStitch does a great job of seamlessly blending these images. The result is the best possible balance for any point in the panorama. (In the photo, the sun is directly behind the tree.) The second advantage for AutoStitch is it can handle a huge mosaic – combining pictures in stripes and combining stripes into the final image. Imagine a big matrix of 10×4 pictures. AutoStitch can combine all of them into one very large image.

I don’t expect AutoStitch to compete with a desktop computer and a DSLR but then again, that solution doesn’t let me capture the moment, create the panorama, write this blog post, and load it to the internet – all while taking a walk with my dog. Smile!

The iPhone 6 Plus isn’t too big … for me

side by side comparison of 5 and 6 plus

side by side comparison of 5 and 6 plus

 

I watched the news pour in on the Apple announcement this week. While the watch was interesting, I don’t wear a watch so I quickly lost interest … other than the funny “lefty usability” discussions on social media.

The real question I was watching for was, “is the iPhone 6 Plus too big?”

Everything I could find – from specifications to videos to mockups – suggested it might just be too big. Then I decided to make a mockup of my own. The picture is an accurate sized fake iPhone 6 Plus and a real iPhone 5. It depicts reaching for the home button, reaching for the far edge, and holding for reading.

Without shifting the phone up in my hand or rolling the phone in my hand, I didn’t reach the home button. But those limitations were unnatural, since I was attempting to keep the phone in one position for each photo. When I didn’t think about it, I naturally slid my little finger under the bottom and nudged the home button the last bit toward my reaching thumb. It didn’t feel awkward or unstable. I wasn’t sensing the phone would fall out of my hand.

My iPhone 5 is with me whenever I leave the house – for a walk, in the truck, doing errands, etc. It’s in a front pants pocked when I wear jeans or it’s in a side pocket when I wear painter paints. When I’m in business dress, it’s in an inside jacket pocket.

The iPhone 6 Plus will easily fit the same. The exception is sitting down with it in a front pants pocket. It does pinch a little. I’d likely move it to a shirt pocket.

If you’re thinking, “it’s still to big for a phone, it’s gonna look funny next to your ear” then it may help to understand how I use an iPhone today.

I place one or two calls each day. They are nearly always when I walk the dog around the farm in the early morning and early evening. Occasionally I’ll place a call while driving. My truck has integrated Bluetooth so it’s hands free.

When driving, I often use the iPhone for Pandora music or TomTom driving directions. For all of these reasons, the truck has a mount for the phone and a USB cable.

I use my iPhone like a micro-Mac. I do email, blogging, social media, web forums, lots of photos and photo editing, banking, shopping, research, and more. I also use it as a backup to navigational data when flying.

Recently I tested a Nexus 7 tablet. It wasn’t as fast or refined as my iPad Air but I found I was using it more the the iPad – which had a lot to do with it’s smaller size.

For me, the iPhone 6 Plus won’t be a phone. I don’t make enough calls to focus on that capability. It will be a compact tablet with a good camera, data service, storage, and significant compute power … that can place my daily call to mom.

The ‘A’ in APRS, doesn’t stand for amateur but it is

Technically, APRS stands for Automatic Packet Reporting System. While the ‘A’ stands for ‘automatic’, the entire system is an amateur radio-based system.

I know a number of pilots who use APRS as a method of tracking their airplanes. It’s fun. I have a ‘tracker’ in my airplane.

However, some of those same people consider it a piece of safety equipment and that is probably a bit over reaching.

I recently reviewed a track of packets that spanned about three days. I noticed this track exhibited three of the common problems with APRS packets. Here are images of the three anomalies …

aprs-not-perfect

In the upper left image, the track and position look fine until you realize that timestamp was 14 hours old. It suggests the airplane fell out of the sky. In the lower right, it would appear the airplane was hovering at 4:30 in the morning but I know for a fact he was sound asleep safely on the ground. The right side image looks as though the airplane was flying back and forth.

If anyone was using the tracker data to locate the airplane, the data would put the search in the wrong places.

I will admit the above is a rare case. Most often these glitches are infrequent.

So, what caused these issues?

Well, the first image could be one of two problems. First, the tracker could have failed. Alternately, there were no iGates (ground stations) in the area. I know this is an example of the latter.

What about the second image?

This is an example of an iGate delaying a packet. It is probably the most extreme case I have detected. Normally, when a packet is delayed, the result is the image on the right. Imagine removing all the lines and just leaving the dots then connecting the dots in the most obvious sequence. The resulting track is what the plane was actually flying. However, when the packets are received out of order – in this case that would be 1, 3, 2, 6, 4, 5, 8, 7, 10, 11, 12, 9, 13, … – the track jumps all over the place. The problem is not the transmitter but rather the iGates processing the packets to the internet. Some internet sites attempt to filter out these issues.

So my advice to everyone is to remember APRS is an amateur activity and is not guaranteed. Enjoy it but don’t bank your life on it unless you can verify its does what you expect.

BLAT that idea, note, or file

Sometimes I just want to get a picture or PDF or file onto my iPhone or tablet. I hate the process setting up file sharing via some app. More often then not, I just email the file to myself. But I’m lazy enough to even dread that.

So today I setup BLAT – a command line too for sending short messages, notes, and even file attachments. It’s really easy to use once you get it configured and you create a little batch file to fill in all of the parameters. I found a nice PDF document here.

The setup requires you know your mail server SMTP address and port. You will also need to know the username and password for your mail account. It is quite a bit more convoluted to setup with GMail so I gave up and just used my web hosting email account which is simple.

A typical web host email account uses the following:

  • SMTP Server: mail.your_host_site_name.com
  • SMTP Port: 25 (but a lot of hosting sites now use something different to avoid the spam engines)
  • Email Address: you@your_host_site_name.com
  • Email Password: your_dogs_name_or_something

Once you have downloaded BLAT and have the four pieces of information, the configuration is easy:

CMD> drive:\file\path\blat.exe -install mail.your_host_site_name.com you@your_host_site_name.com 1 25 -u you@your_host_site_name.com -pw your_dogs_name_or_something

Sending a message is easy from the command line but I created a small batch file to cut down on the typing and so I would not forget the parameters.

Since it is mostly for sending files, all I wanted to provide was a recipient and the file name. I decided the subject line and the body of the email could be generic and refer to the attached file.

Here is what I ended up with:

@echo off
rem install blat using BLAT -install mail.website.com user@website.com 1 port -u user_login -pw user_password

if %2n == n goto missing_args
if %3n == n goto default_account
c:\tools\blat.exe -s "here is the %2 file" -i "%1" -to %2 -body "Please find attached the %2 file." -attach %3
goto done

:default_account
c:\tools\blat.exe -s "here is the %2 file" -i "me@my_host_site_name.com" -to %1 -body "Please find attached the %2 file." -attach %2
goto done

:missing_args
echo USAGE: blat recipient file_name
echo USAGE: blat sender recipient file_name

:done

That it! Now I can BLAT that file !

Slow motion video to evaluation form

Most coaches evaluate an athlete’s form to determine is there is wasted motion and ways to improve performance, speed, and efficiency. It’s no different when the athlete is an animal. This is definitely true for canine agility.

While I do not compete with my dog, Nick, I’m no less fascinated by his motion and performance.

It’s difficult to evaluate gate, stride, jump style, height, etc. when you are the athlete or running along with the athlete. Video can help. Slow motion video can help even more.

Today, high definition slow motion video is as close as some smartphones. The iPhone 5s in a good example. The Panasonic Lumix SZ40 is another good example. Both can shoot 120 frames per second. That gives perfectly smooth video as 1/4 speed and usable video at 1/8 speed. The Lumix can even shoot SD quality video as 240 frames per second.

I use a simple tripod and a modified car mount for the iPhone.

Evaluating the Jump

The results show that Nick jumps higher than he needs to. It also shows, his hind end is higher well past the jump. He is wasting energy.

Of course, given how much energy Nick has, I’m happy to have him waste a bit of it as often as he likes !