Saraton Theatre Gets 7.1

Today I had the pleasure of being one of the first to experience Tron in 7.1 audio at a cinema that wasn’t IMAX. Yes, Grafton, my humble little hometown has recently updated the heritage listed Saraton Theatre into the 21st century.
We were told at the start of the movie that the cinema had been just updated to a 7.1 system with a 4k 3D projector for entertainment bliss. The audio was crisp and clear with almost perfectly balanced surround sound, and the picture was sharp and clear 3D. The seats were clean and comfy with a slight recline and plenty of leg room.
This is the sort of cinema that people should travel to, just because it’s so damn awesome. And the price for all this movie-going pleasure? $14 with a Coke and the glasses. $14!! That’s less than a single normal ticket at your rubbish Hoyts or BC&C. The same movie would be over $20 with a drink. Rubbish.
I’m glad they’ve renovated the cinema, and from talking to the staff, they’re very proud of what they’ve achieved. Check it out if you’re in Grafton.

Moto GP 2010

Moto GP It’s day one at Phillip Island for the Moto GP, and there isn’t a bit of blue sky to be seen. It hasn’t stopped raining since about 2am this morning and there is mud, slush and water everywhere. I’ve had a look through the display pavilion, bought some stuff, looked over the bikes, and managed to see Wayne Gardner give a speech on behalf of the Flying Doctors. Although I did find out a little more about his latest doctors checkup than I anticipated.
I’ll keep this blog updated as the weekend progresses, so please feel free to check back.

It’s race day today and the sun is trying to punch through. I managed to wander around the circumference of the track yesterday during qualifying to get some different angles on the bikes. Plenty of knee down action from the GP bikes, with Stoner taking pole position for today’s race.

I was planning on doing my usual run up Gardner Straight after the race has finished, but they’ve removed the tyre wall and created a mud filled moat with an Arco fence. I’m doubtful I’ll be able to get myself and my camera gear from the Honda tent, down the hill, over the fence and onto the track without making a mess of it. Maybe next year…

So after another Australian win by Stoner, and an amazing battle between Hayden and Rossi, the 2010 Moto GP is over. The sun came out for all three races: 125cc, Moto2, and Moto GP. This provided it’s own challenges, with a mixture of wet and dry patches on the road creating numerous issues for the riders. But the sun quickly dried the track to allow for some exciting racing!

I’m looking forward to next year, and taking the 2500km round trip on my little Honda. Pack light, enjoy the ride, and have a beer with mates at the end of a day in the saddle.

Facetime: Why can’t it be used over 3G?

Now, I’m not one of the boffins working as an engineer at Apple, but what I want to know is why the hell you can’t do FaceTime over 3G?
Yes, I understand the AT&T network is rubbish and suffers from dropped calls and overloading of their data network, but that’s for just one country. What about Australia, Japan, the UK, France and Germany? We don’t have the AT&T abomination that Americans suffer through. Just have a look at the graphs below…my 3G connection has a better upload speed than my WiFi! So what’s the limiting factor?
All I can put it down to is that AT&T is rubbish, and the rest of the world has to suffer for it.

WiFi Speedtest

WiFi Speedtest

3G Speedtest

3G Speedtest

 

 

Google Goggles On iPhone

Google Goggles Google Goggles has been released for the iPhone Google app as of today. This neat little feature provides visual search of things around you. While it’s not too crash hot on identifying things like plants and animals, it is brilliant at translating text, identifying landmarks, bringing up info on logos or reading text and providing search options. This feature has been on Android phones for a while, and is definitely a welcome feature to the iPhone. It’s free, so have a look-see at the Google App on the App Store.

iPhone 4 HDR Comparison

IOS 4-1

Apple iOS 4.1 was released this week after its announcement last week. It included a number of changes including Game Center (sic), a few bug fixes and surprisingly High Dynamic Range Photography, or HDR. No-one was really expecting this from Apple at all, but it is definitely welcomed. So what is it?

Well, put simply HDR is a combination of a number of different exposures that are blended together with the best features of each extrapolated to provide detail across the entire scene. Fortunately for us, our eyes do this on the fly constantly without us really knowing about it and adjust the amount of light they see dynamically as you look out a bright window, or back into a darker room. Cameras aren’t so versatile and need a little assistance. If you take a photo through that window you just looked out your camera has two basic options: Expose for the bright areas, or expose for the dark ones. HDR will take a photo of the scene with both of these areas exposed properly and meld them together so the entire scene is properly exposed. Clever, huh?

This is a feature that on my relatively expensive Canon SLR requires me to bracket the scene, set the camera to continuously shoot photos in rapid succession, put the three exposures into an image editor like Photoshop or Photomatix, get the balance right in the photo, wait for it to number crunch and spit out my HDR photo. Pretty time consuming? You betcha. This is how the iPhone 4 does it… Open camera application, make sure HDR is turned on with an on-screen button, take the photo, wait 3 seconds and review both the HDR and the photo the camera would’ve taken if HDR was off. Tell me which you’d rather?

Yes the SLR gives me a bucket load of options to configure this and that, but when you just want to get past the limitations of an already wonderful little point and shoot, this is a free addition that just can’t be beat. See below for my comparison shots of what you can now get out of a photo where the light in the scene just won’t play ball.

Non-HDR iPhone 4

Non-HDR iPhone 4

HDR iPhone 4

HDR iPhone 4

AT&T iPhone 4 Plan vs Australian iPhone 4 Plan

AT&T Death Star I’ve heard stories for a while about how exorbitant it is to have an iPhone 4 in the USA on AT&T, so I decided to get my geek on and compare the roughly equivalent plans on AT&T’s network, and the network I’ve chosen to be on in Australia. I’ve put the prices for each category in the current US dollars given the exchange rate for today (25 Aug 2010).  Not only are the US plans more expensive, but they’re a LOT more expensive. I’m amazed at how ‘optioned’ AT&T is with absolutely every feature seeming to attract a dollar value.

First up is the handset cost. Both offer the iPhone 4 in the 32GB variety with AT&T costing $US299 and Optus costing $US213, but AT&T also have a one off primary line activation fee of $36, and then you might get extra state taxes thrown in for a bonus. You then need a plan to make all those phone calls on, and these were a little harder to compare as AT&T plans are in minutes, and Optus is in dollars (but is around 600 minutes a month). So I grabbed the plan costing the same monthly amount as what I’m on here, with both offering free calls to other phones on the network, and no additional charges for STD calling nationwide. Optus do include international SMS’s in their monthly allowance, but this will also reduce the call time you have.

Data is included in the Optus plan at no additional cost, and they provide 2GB and free tethering for your $AU59. AT&T want $25 a month for 2GB, and will sting you for a further $20 every month for the privilege of using that data through your laptop. Really AT&T? It costs you that much to enable a setting in the phone so that users can use the data they paid for on another device?

SMS is a bone of contention for me after I visited the US back on 2009. Get this, if someone sends you a text message to your phone (something you do not have the option to accept or reject) you get charged for it. Yes, the sender still pays, but you pick up a “standard charge” to receive the text message. Normally this is around $0.10, but if you had a trigger happy mate on an unlimited text plan he could very quickly send you to the poor house by smashing you with text messages. What’s that, a question from the back row? Yes, I will tell you how to get around this, glad you asked. You pay AT&T an additional $20 a month for unlimited text messaging. Luckily in Australia, this is included for free in my plan, as well as the more expensive ones too. If I didn’t have unlimited SMS, could my trigger happy texting mate hit me with a huge bill? Not on your nelly, it doesn’t cost a cent to receive a text message in Australia, only send one. And that’s just how it should be.

I also have the added benefit of having a completely unlocked iPhone 4, so I can put any GSM carrier’s micro SIM into my phone, very handy for roaming internationally. AT&T will be kind enough to offer you roaming charges using affiliate networks in foreign countries, but you won’t be swapping out that SIM card any-time soon unless you jailbreak the iPhone.

So how does this all add up? Well, I’ve been kind enough to summarise it in a nice little table below (Australian dollars in parentheses) but the gist is that you pay 57.2% more for the handset initially, and 172.3% more for roughly the equivalent value in each plan.Exclusivity, while good for the provider is bad for the consumer. I guess we’re very fortunate here to have four carriers fighting for our dollar, and it makes for a very healthy market.

AT&T vs Optus

AT&T vs Optus

iPhone OS 4.0

On Friday, 8th April 2010, Steve Jobs announced iPhone OS 4.0 for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. From what’s been coming back from developers so far, this is the biggest OS release for the tiny miracle I call the iPhone (and it’s brethren). Steve announced on the day seven of what he calls “tent poles”, and I’m going to go through these now while including my thoughts on each one.

1. Multitasking This is a biggie, just like copy and paste was back in a previous release of the OS. People have been crying out for this for a long time. Me? Not so much. I was happy to have a stable environment after seeing the butchered job that phone operating systems like Windows Mobile (sorry, I just threw up a little in my mouth) had done to multitasking. Having to either manually shut down programmes or continuously restart the phone because the OS couldn’t manage its memory any better than Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates was a right royal pain in the A. So I was happy for my iPhone to do one thing at a time. But when Steve rolls up his sleeves (let’s call him Sleeve-rolling Steve), he does things right. With a simple double tap of the home button, the screen shifts up to reveal up to four new icons at the bottom. These are the currently running apps, and you can finger swipe left and right to see beyond the initial four. Apps that are running in the background are put in a suspended state, so they only occupy a small memory footprint, and not any of those precious CPU cycles. It apparently only takes a developer around 5 minutes to insert the lines of code to take advantage of multitasking, so it’s a win for users, developers, and the hardware! Yay!

2. Folders This is one that I’ve been hanging out for like a fat kid outside a closed bakery (please, no personal fat jokes, I’m sensitive). With a simple drag and drop of one icon on top of another (kinky) while they jiggle (kinkier), a folder is automatically create containing the two apps (even kin… okay, too far?). Up to twelve can be clustered together, giving you the possibility of having over 2,000 apps on your iPhone (I’m 7.5% of the way there). It even automagically names the folder according to the genre of the first app you place in there. This is great for an obsessive/compulsive like me who has each page ordered by genre (travel apps, social networking apps, utilities, movie & photography, action games, puzzle games, tower defence games – please don’t judge me, and RPG’s). You can even drag a folder to the dock at the bottom of the screen so up to twelve icons are accessible at all times. Simple, but brilliant!

3. Email This one may not seem like a big deal, but use the iPhone email app with multiple accounts for a day, and you may just sympathise with me. I love doing email on the iPhone. I use it more for mail than Hotmail or Gmail on the web, or my ISP email in Outlook. It’s delivered instantly or within 15 minutes, I can reply directly from the device (with a smug “Sent on iPhone” signature block at the bottom of each one), and it’s easy to delete once I’m done. What I don’t like is tapping in twice to go to an individual inbox, the returning out with two more taps before delving into the next one with another two. I’m 33! I don’t have time for all this, I’ll be dead in a couple of years! But Apple has heard my quiet sobs at night as I cry myself to sleep, wishing for a unified inbox. You can still access your mail accounts individually, or you can see them all in one glorious whole (yes, spelling is correct)! They’ve also let us see emails threaded together in one conversation, so no rather than deleting all the old replies of an email thread, they all sit under the one heading with a simple  >>  off to the side to let you know it’s a thread.

4. iBooks Like iBooks on the iPad, but smaller. Oh and you get Winnie The Pooh for free. I like Stanza for my book reading, but if I can integrate all my current eBooks into iBooks (all I need now are aBooks, oBooks and uBooks and I have the whole bloody set to qualify for the free steak knives), and I think I can with an epub converter, then I’ll be set to continue reading my Dexter trilogy.

5. Enterprise Some stuff for stiffs in suits that like TPS reports, mission statements, KPIs, lattes (wait, I like lattes…), and motivational posters. The real motivational posters, and not the funny ones. Yeah, you know the ones, you got an email full of them today.

6. Gaming Apple is releasing Game Centre, which is like the Plus Network and Open Feint, except some of you might actually accept my bloody invites now! (calm safe place, calm safe place…) Ahem, so it brings together everyone to chat, brag, and matchmake games, just like Plus and Open Feint… Hmmm. We’ll see how the tea leaves pan out for this one.

7. iAds Boy has this received some backlash. “Oh no, ads in games! What will we do?”, the fanbois scream. Now I’m not too worried about this one, as the presentation that Sleeve-rolling Steve (god I hope that takes…) gave was pretty good. Ads appear in apps already, it happens, developers need to make money. The problem is that if you do want to see what an app is offering, it unceremoniously dumps you from the app and into Safari or iTunes, leaving you to wonder if your high score on Peggle is still there when you come back. With iAds integrated into the OS, ads can be opened within the app, viewed, played with and molested, before you return to exactly where you were. It supports HTML5 (and leaves that nasty Flash at the door), and allows movies, games, audio, shopping, the possibilities are endless. I actually like the potential it has, particularly as I’ve been booted from my apps before for wanting to check out another app from the developer that they’ve advertised. It puts consumers off when that happens.

Some other mentionables that popped up in the presentation were:

  • Homescreen wallpaper. Just like on the iPad, and you can have a unified wallpaper on your home and locked screen, or two separate images. I’d still like more done with the locked screen though than just the time.
  • Bluetooth keyboard support. For all you mad l337 skillz texters out there.
  • Background location. Apps like Gowalla and Foursquare can keep tabs on you even after shifting apps. This feature uses the mobile towers to work out if you’ve moved far enough to need a GPS lock to save on battery power. And on location, you can now selectively, well, select which apps use locations data, similar to the Push Notification screen (that sentence could’ve been so much better, don’t you think? write to me at bigkev64@gmail.com and tell me what you’d have come up with. Or not, I don’t need the attention, honest…)
  • Local notifications. Like push notifications, but, local… Okay, that was shithouse. I can do better. Local notifications: brings warnings, alerts and annoyances to your phone without the need for cloud based networking from the Apple in the sky. Much better, informative and entertaining!
  • Task completion. Oh this is a nice little addition. You can now upload a photo to Facebook and text all your friends abut it while it continues in the background. Teenagers are gonna love that. “Hey, chek out my kool pic I jst posted of moi! TTYL”, or something… God I hate textlish, it makes me want to claw my eyes out and sacrifice them to the Gods Of Punctuation And Half Decent Grammar (church services every Sunday at 9am).
  • Improved spell check. Those mentioned in the above bullet point will turn this off, but for the rest of us using the Queen’s English we will now have more than one result for our fat-fingered misdemeanour’s.
  • Background VOIP support. This lets you have Skype running in the background, and will alert you when you have an incoming call.

So that’s about it folks, all the goodness of iPhone news locked up in a delicious WordPress blog post with my ever so witty and puerile spin on things. Enjoy!