The Tablet: Between A Rock And A Hard Place

Richard J. Anderson:

The problem is that the tablet as a form factor, is being squeezed from both sides: bigger smartphones that can do all the things a modern tablet can do, and thinner, lighter laptops that can do all the things a modern tablet can do—and more.

Within the Apple world, the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus is the rock, the 12-inch MacBook is the hard place, and the iPad — both the 7.9-inch iPad mini and the 9.7-inch iPad Air — is between the two, being squeezed, hard.

Freedom From Digital Nagging

Jamie Henson:

As a software developer who spends his time in front of some screen or other for the majority of his waking hours, I don’t want to be constantly prodded by some little jumped-up sundial when I clock off. I want out. No form factor, no matter how sleek and aluminium-y, is going to change that. My old watch, a £10 digital from Argos, told the time, and voiced an alarm when I told it to. That’s it. […] The whole point of a smartwatch is that you wear it. It’s there all the time. And that’s horrible.

Me? I don’t wear a watch. I don’t need to know the exact minute of every moment of my life, but on the occasion I do — when I deliver lunch for my kids for instance — I have a phone. How funny: I probably use my phone more as a clock than a phone.

We need to be punctual, yes, but we don’t need to hurry. I give myself a decently large buffer between things I need to do. With the lunch delivery example, if I need to prepare, pack, and deliver lunch for my kids by 11:40 am on Fridays and it takes about 30 minutes to do that, I’ll give myself 10 extra minutes. I check the clock to see if it’s getting close to 11, and one more time around 11:30. That’s it. Less stress, and I enjoy it more. No need for a watch let alone a constantly nagging smartwatch on my wrist. My phone nags me well enough.

Sometimes I stare at my smartphone and wonder what it would be like to live without it.

Samsung Tops Apple in Q1 2015

Reuters: According to Strategy Analytics, Samsung captured 24% of worldwide smartphone shipments while Apple carved out 18% in Q1 2015. Number one in shipments? Not unimportant, but profits are more important.

ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501

ASUS: The ZenBook Pro UX501 sports an incredible display. Here are some specs:

  • Display: 15.6-inch IPS LCD
  • Pixel Format: 4K Ultra HD (UHD) 3840×2160
  • Resolution: 282 ppi
  • Viewing Angles: 178/178
  • Color Gamut: 72% NTSC, 100% sRGB, 74% Adobe RGB

The only negative is the thick bezel.

LG G4

LG: A few important bits:

  • Display: 5.5-inch Quantum IPS LCD (slightly curved)
  • Pixel Format: Quad HD (QHD) 2560×1440 RGB Stripe
  • Resolution: ~538 ppi
  • Cover Glass: Corning Gorilla Glass 4

Quantum IPS sounds mighty impressive, and it is. Compared to the G3:

  • Brightness: +25%
  • Contrast: +50%
  • Color Accuracy: +20%
  • Power Efficiency: +11%

And the slight curvature reduces the likelihood of breaking on impact by 20% compared to the G3.

The camera is vastly improved too:

  • Image Sensor: 1/2.6 inch, 16 megapixels
  • Lens: f/1.8
  • Image Stabilization: Yes, Optical
  • Autofocus: Phase Detection / Laser

The G4 sports a color spectrum sensor that improves color accuracy and white balance.

The iPhone 6 image sensor size is 1/3.0 inch; the G4’s is larger: 1/2.6 inch. The iPhone 6 lens aperture is f/2.2; the G4’s is significantly brighter at f/1.8. The LG G4 solely based on these specs looks like it will easily best the iPhone 6 & 6 Plus.

When it comes to the display there is little doubt the 5.5-inch 2560×1440 Quantum IPS LCD in the LG G4 is significantly better.

The Apple Watch Display

Raymond Soneira:

Apple has implemented a rather aggressive display Brightness and display power management strategy using a mandatory Automatic Brightness Ambient Light Sensor that significantly restrains the display’s Brightness. While satisfactory for low indoor ambient lighting it significantly reduces the Contrast Ratio and Color Gamut as the ambient light level increases and there is no way for the user to make any adjustments other than just shading the watch somehow. Another form of aggressive display power management is turning off the display after 6 to 17 seconds, which is rather inflexible and can be very annoying, and it interferes with some uses of the watch.

Everyone’s eyes are different. For someone like me who has sensitive eyes, a certain level of brightness might be too bright. For others who are less sensitive, that same level might be too dim. How about a brightness calibration process? When Apple Watch first starts up it can ask you, “Is this text bright enough?”

Here’s another thought: what if Apple Watch sensed color temperature and automatically compensated? For instance, you’re in an office building with blueish CFL bulbs checking your Instagram feed. Apple Watch would warm the color temperature of the OLED display transforming your friends’ faces from lifeless zombies to healthy humans.

The premium Apple Watch models have a sapphire crystal rather than using a cover glass like on the iPhone 6 and most smartphones. That is the same approach used on premium traditional watches, but there is one very significant difference between them. The much higher Reflectance of sapphire compared to glass almost doubles the reflected ambient light, which is fine for traditional watches that work by reflecting ambient light, but significantly washes out the image contrast and color on emissive smart watch displays. It’s an interesting compromise between the luxury and scratch resistance of sapphire versus optical performance.

From what I can tell, the display on the Apple Watch already has quite a bit of contrast; the user interface background is mostly black, a deep space kind of black, and that helps a great deal with contrast. What if Apple developed a new type of sapphire that retained its hardness without all that reflectance?

Happily waiting to see what Apple Watch 2 will be like.

Kodachrome Film Was Racist

Rosie Cima, Priceonomics:

As mentioned earlier, in film photography, color balance has a lot to do with the chemical composition of the film. For many decades, color film in the United States was calibrated to highlight Caucasian skin tones. This was the most fundamental problem. With an unusual degree of skill and attention, a photographer could compensate for the biases in most stages of production. But there was nothing they could do about the film’s color balance. When the famous New Wave filmmaker Jean Luc Godard was commissioned to make a film about Mozambique, he reportedly refused to use Kodachrome film — the most popular color film at the time. He complained the film, developed for a predominantly white market, was “racist.”

Two of Kodak’s largest professional accounts — chocolate confectioners — complained about the film’s inability to render different chocolate colors; it was then and only then — parents have been complaining about graduation photos — Kodak improved the chemical composition and developed Kodacolor VR-G, later rebranded Kodacolor Gold.

If Kodak’s raison d’être was “develop the best tools to capture visual memories,” the company’s future might have turned out differently.

Monozukuri

Craig Trudell, Yuki Hagiwara, and Ma Jie, The Japan Times:

“We need to become more solid and get back to basics, to sharpen our manual skills and further develop them,” said Kawai, a half century-long company veteran tapped by President Akio Toyoda to promote craftsmanship at Toyota’s plants.

An eminently logical move: monozukuri (the art of making things) leads to kaizen (continuous improvement).

“We cannot simply depend on the machines that only repeat the same task over and over again,” Kawai said. “To be the master of the machine, you have to have the knowledge and the skills to teach the machine.”

In addition to high quality automobiles I hope Toyota exports its monozukuri culture.

Celluon PicoPro

Celluon: Simply put, the PicoPro is a 250-inch screen in your pocket. Here are some specs:

  • Dimensions: 6x3x0.5 inches
  • Weight: 189.9 grams
  • Battery Life: 2.5 hours (WiFi) to 3.5 hours (HDMI)
  • Contrast Ratio: 80,000:1
  • Pixel Format: 1920×720
  • Throw Ratio: 1:1.3

Reviews are good; check out Engadget’s. Price starts at US$349.

Why Men Fail

David Brooks, The New York Times:

To succeed today, you have to be able to sit still and focus attention in school at an early age. You have to be emotionally sensitive and aware of context. You have to communicate smoothly. For genetic and cultural reasons, many men stink at these tasks.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of watching The Imitation Game. There are many historical inaccuracies in the movie, as do most movies “based on a true story”, but this is true: Alan Turing was instrumental in breaking the Enigma code, an encrypted communications method the Germans used during the Second World War. He and Gordon Welchman designed a rotor-based mechanical computer to rapidly test likely letter combinations. Turing et al. saved millions of lives.

Did Turing succeed? From a secular point of view, he did, brilliantly. Could he succeed today? If I were a betting man Turing probably did not sit still and focus attention in school at an early age. Math and science teachers must have suffocated his mind. Was he emotionally sensitive and aware of context? Probably not, not more than the average man, and most likely less. And finally, did Turing communicate smoothly? From what I have read, not likely. By these standards Turing would be a failure in today’s world. But imagine if today our world needed brilliant computer scientists to break an unbreakable encryption code used by a ruthlessly destructive enemy.

Let us not narrow our minds to think only those with a particular set of characteristics will succeed in our world.