Some Quick iPhone 4.1 HDR Samples

Written by: Adam Christianson

Categories: Cool Stuff, News

iphone4hdr.jpgThe iPhone 4.1 Software update was just released by Apple and after updating my iPhone 4 one of the first features I wanted to try out was HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos. There are many ways to accomplish HDR varying from the simple to the complex. The basics are that you shoot multiple exposures to capture various areas of detail (highlight, mid-range, and shadow). You then take the resulting exposures and use software (in this case the iOS Camera app) to combine the images. The goal is to get a final image that offers a wider range of color and detail than one shot with a single exposure. iOS 4.1 attempts to offer the simplest way to shoot and create HDR photos. Simply pressing an “on/off” toggle switch at the top of the Camera app is all that is required to enable or disable the feature. The app then takes 3 exposures and merges them. Both the standard image and the HDR versions are saved so you can take your pick when you sync the images back to your computer. When shooting in HDR mode it did take a second or two longer to save the images to the camera roll. If taking a rapid sequence of photos is your objective you’ll want to turn this feature off. If you are having trouble capturing shadow or highlight detail in your images though, HDR mode may be a life saver. As with most things Apple does the implementation here is meant to be dead simple. Enable. Shoot. There are no other options or controls and you can’t adjust the exposures. If you need more functionality there are plenty of other 3rd party HDR apps available in the App Store. I’ve only spent 2 minutes with the new feature, but as you can see from my quick shots (Flickr), the results are mixed. Some shots were improved more than others and some common HDR issues, like ghosting, are going to be a problem. Apple isn’t going to revolutionize the HDR trend with this new feature, but at least now we have a second exposure option in iOS.

HDR iPhone 4.1Standard iPhone 4.1HDR iPhone 4.1Standard iPhone 4.1HDR iPhone 4.1Standard iPhone 4.1
VIDEO: Apple Covent Garden Store Opening

Written by: Adam Christianson

Categories: Cool Stuff

Apple opened it’s latest (and largest) flagship Apple retail store at Covent Garden in London this past Saturday. Maccast listener and London Mac User Group (LMUG) member Steve (@clothheadhq) was there and put together this video montage.

iMovie for iPhone 4 Example (updated)

Written by: Adam Christianson

Categories: Cool Stuff, Reviews

Update: Added HD (720p) version below for comparison.

Above is a sample movie I created 100% on the new iPhone 4. I used the iPhone 4’s built in front and rear facing cameras to capture stills and video. I used Apple’s new iMovie for iPhone App to edit and assemble the clips and add the transitions, titles, and audio. Finally the video was exported to the Camera Roll and uploaded directly to YouTube via the device. The whole project took about 2 hours or so to complete and was actually quite simple to put together. As you can see the final results are pretty good, but there is room for improvement. First. I don’t have steady hands and I think a tripod or something to stabilize the phone as I shot the video would have been a great help. As for the audio, I used the built-in “theme” track. In the app there was no indication of the length of the track. When enabled it simply created a green “tack line” under my video timeline and the line extended the full length of my video project. I naturally assumed it was long enough or would loop to cover my whole project. When previewing in edit mode in the app it even played the audio throughout the project. It was only after export that I discovered the track simply faded out at the end, around a minute or so in. There is no option to loop the track and you can only have one such “background” track per project. You can however also include the recorded audio from each clip over the background audio if you choose and it will even auto-duck the background track. Finally, the video exported to the Camera Roll on the iPhone is output at 720p (1280 x 720). Unfortunately, uploading to YouTube directly from the iPhone only yields a maximum resolution of 568 x 320. I assume this is why the YouTube above maxes out at 360p. Even so I think that all of this can be done on a phone. Just so you can get a comparison, I do plan to upload a 720p version polished up in iMovie on my Mac so you can see what the iPhone is fully capable of. Stay tuned.

Here is the 720p version as promised. It is still exactly the same version produced and exported entirely on the iPhone. The only change is a new music track I added in iMovie on the Mac since the iPhone version couldn’t be looped.

Welcome to the iStore?

Written by: Adam Christianson

Categories: Cool Stuff

Maccast listener Joe is in Johannesburg working on the World Cup and sent in some snap shots of an iStore.

iStore

But what’s an iStore?

It looks very much like a typical smaller Apple Retail Store you might see in a US mall, but it obviously wasn’t an “Apple Store”. I’m pretty sure iStore is a local chain or brand, but behind it is a program run by Apple called the Apple Premium Reseller program. These are local resellers authorized by Apple to sell Apple products and accessories. You’ll find Apple Premium Resellers in many countries like South Africa, UK, Germany, etc. They are retail locations staffed by Apple experts and offer many services similar to ones you would find in an Apple operated retail store. Services  like seminars, events, business solutions, and educational pricing.

iPhone 4 Arriving Sooner Than Expected

Written by: Adam Christianson

Categories: Cool Stuff, News

At least for some. Starting Sunday many of you emailed me to let me know that Apple had started sending iPhone shipping notices for your pre-ordered iPhone 4’s. One thing I noticed in several of the emails was that the arrival date was noted as June 23rd, a day before the officially announced June 24th date. I figured it was the scenario we had seen in the past where the shipments start, but Apple requests the shipper hold the items until the actual launch date. Well now it’s looking like this time will be different.

Checkout the email being sent out this morning to pre-order customers:

Dear Apple Store Customer,

You recently received a Shipment Notification email from Apple advising you that your iPhone has shipped.

This email is to confirm that your delivery will occur on June 23rd. Although Apple and FedEx tracking information may currently indicate a later date, you can check the FedEx website the morning of the June 23rd to track your package to your doorstep.

In the event that you will not be available to accept delivery on June 23rd, it may be more convenient to use our pre-sign delivery option by visiting our Order Status website at http://www.apple.com/orderstatus.

Sincerely,

The Apple Store Team

So I guess that date was correct. What is not clear at this point is why Apple bumped up the date. A logical guess is that there are concerns over the volume of activations and they may be trying to spread the load between at home deliveries and in-store pick-up which will still take place on the 24th.

I’m glad that many of you will be getting your new iPhones a day early, but I do have to mention this will likely create some outcry from those who weren’t able to get their pre-orders through Apple and AT&T’s systems. Either way I expect Thursday and (now) Wednesday will be both exciting and frustrating for Apple fans.

Thanks to listener Bob for the tip off

iPads May Cause Macbook Pro Sleepiness

Written by: Adam Christianson

Categories: Cool Stuff, News

The folks over at MacStories noticed their 2008 Macbook Pro getting a bit drowsy when they let their iPad get too close (see video below). What seems to be happening is placing the iPad over the lower right hand rest area of the Macbook Pro makes it to go to sleep. Repeating the procedure then wakes it up. Odd indeed, but explainable.

It’s seems to be a magnetic switch that activating to put the Macbook Pro to sleep when the lid is closed. If you take a paper clip and place it about 1/3 of the way down the right edge of the Macbook Pro screen it will stick to it. There are also a bunch of magnets along the top edge of the screen, but those appear to be there just to hold the Macbook Pro lid shut when it’s closed.

The sleep switch also seems to be magnetic and about the same distance down along the right edge of the Macbook Pro top case just behind the right speaker grill. It does appear to be a little further in, more toward the keyboard so I assume it gets pulled out to the edge when you close the lid activating the switch. Now the key to triggering it with the iPad is to place the back of the iPad, specifically the area just under the iPad speaker holes, over that section of the Macbook Pro. Viola! The Macbook Pro should go to sleep. I believe it’s the magnets in the iPad speakers that act like the magnets in the Macbook Pro lid and cause the Macbook Pro to think you shut just the lid effectively putting it to sleep. No mystery, no magical forces, just science.

Maccast listener Connor really deserves the credit for discovering this quirk. He emailed me about 3 weeks ago to say he was seeing this behaviour when he got an iPhone 3GS near that part of a 15″ Macbook Pro. At the time I couldn’t repeat the behaviour, but I was able to confirm this with my 15″ Macbook Pro and my 32GB Wi-Fi iPad.

Testing Flash “Gala” Preview

Written by: Adam Christianson

Categories: Cool Stuff, News, Random Thoughts

Electronista has a post reporting that Adobe has a new Flash preview release dubbed “Gala” (10.1.81.3). With the arrival of “Gala” Adobe has added support for H.264 video hardware decoding on Macs with OS X 10.6.3 and NVIDIA GeForce 9400M, GeForce 320M or GeForce GT 330M graphics chips. Since I own a 15″ unibody Macbook Pro with an NVIDIA 9400M I decided to see how much of a performance difference the new Flash build might offer. For my testing I didn’t use any traditional benchmarking suite, so please take the results accordingly. I do think my tests should represent a “real world” type scenario. Basically, I played back a 720p HD video from YouTube and monitored the resulting Flash Player Plug-in CPU load in Activity Monitor. I found that when running the test on the latest “non-Gala” version of Flash the CPU load on my 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Macbook Pro with 4GB of RAM went up to about 90% CPU utilization. Also the fans on my Macbook kicked in about halfway through the video which runs about 4:30.

flash_default_cpu

When I ran the same video after installing the “Gala” build of Flash I saw a significant drop in CPU usage. The CPU load hovered between 30 and 40%, roughly about a 50 to 60% decrease in load. I also didn’t have my fans kick in.

flash_gala_cpu

With “Gala”, you can tell when the Flash hardware decoding has kicked in by the appearance of a small white square in the corner of the video. Adobe says that in addition to improved playback of H.264 video the hardware enhanced version of Flash should also result in improved battery life. Might be welcome benefit for long Hulu video watching sessions when away from a power outlet.

To be fair I also switch YouTube over to the HTML 5 beta and tested the same video at 720p. Again in my very non-scientific benchmark test I noted that Safari’s CPU load went up to about 20% with the video playing.

Mac Snac 006 – iPad Keyboard Dock Unboxing

Written by: Adam Christianson

Categories: Cool Stuff, Mac Snac

I finally received my iPad Keyboard Dock yesterday. Here’s a quick unboxing video and overview of the specialized function keys.

Unboxing images
You can also checkout my unboxing images on Flickr

www.flickr.com

Mac Snac 005 – iPad Unboxing

Written by: Adam Christianson

Categories: Cool Stuff, Mac Snac

In case you missed it on my YouTube or Facebook pages here’s my video unboxing the iPad WiFi 32 GB

Unboxing images
You can also checkout my unboxing images on Flickr

www.flickr.com

0BA161D9-40AF-457B-862C-E3BCB81034F6.jpgI just got word that the Microsoft Mac BU has released Microsoft Messenger for Mac 8 Beta. Now normally I wouldn’t get excited over an update release of a chat client, but this version finally brings audio and video support to Messenger on the Mac. I mention this specifically because I know a number of you who have wanted to do video chat with friends and family who are on Windows and won’t run anything except Messenger. I haven’t tried the new features yet, but would be interested to hear from any of you who have. You can download the Microsoft Messenger for Mac 8 Beta here.

Update:
The observant folks over on 9 to 5 Mac just noticed something in the release notes PDF for this beta:

2.3 You cannot make Audio/Video calls on some network configurations.

Interesting to note, but likely not a huge cause for concern. The section goes on to explain that you may need to open up some router ports to make the audio and video connections work properly. Details can be found here. Another significant point from the release notes is this beta version is for personal accounts only. You will need to have an account registered with or an ID on the Windows Live Network. Corporate users with an Office Communications Server won’t be able to use the Microsoft Messenger for Mac 8 Beta.