Saturday, November 29, 2014

Skip The Ipad For Taking Family Photos And Videos This Holiday Season

So it finally happened.   I received pictures from a family Thanksgiving Dinner taken from an iPad that are so disgusting to look at I would have rather for them to not have been shared with me. I normally would be the person taking the photos and distributing digitally or on the rare occasion the physical print.

I'm going to say it again: Never take family photos and videos from a tablet! That includes all iPads, iPad Mini, Galaxy Tabs and all Android variants.

Here is why:

The image sensor that converts red, blue and green light into an electronic signal on most tablets is usually very simple and bland without going into details on signal processing and color separation.  It takes that signal and plots it into a 1024 pixel width x 768 pixel height image.  That equates to 786,432 pixel or .8 Megapixels.  This is not what you want.  .8 Megapixels is of the quality that digital cameras were producing 20 years ago. Regular 35mm film produces somewhere between 4 and 16 Megapixels depending on the quality of film used.

So you've already gone down in the pixel count substantially and you now have to factor in noise and digital compression.  What you see on the large display screen is not what is saved on your device.  What is happening while the image is being displayed on the screen is the display is receiving raw video and images from the image sensor in near real time.  When the shutter button is pressed the digital signal processing and occurs in the sensor a compression algorithm is applied to reduce the size of the file stored to the device.  Usually the compression algorithm applied is high lossy compression and the detail captured is lost to make the file size portable.  If look at the picture below you can see that there is a loss of detail on the water bottles, cake, salad and there is a great deal of noise in the picture as well.  

The main problem with this photo is the iPad sensor is that it's unable to adjust the exposure  due to the light in the background and all detail is lost on the faces in the photos.  Most modern point and shoot cameras can detect smiles or faces and can handle all the exposure and saturation settings.

I strongly recommend capturing moments using a modern point and shoot camera with 16+ Megapixels.  Also, most of these cameras can also take video and images simultaneously.  I do not recommend high end smartphones even though it is possible to take high quality photos, it requires a great amount of skill with framing, light composition, tweaking of exposure settings and minimizing movement of the smartphone operator to get the best shot. This is a bit to much work for the average user and a point and shoot can take out most of the complexity of shot composition for the average user.

Now that I've said all of that; you can share those digital moments using your iPad with a Camera Connection Kit.  This will allow you to share images from either the memory card from the point and shoot camera or the usb cable included with your camera which attached to the camera if you don't know how to take the memory card out.

I feel that most low technically skilled users utilize iPad for taking videos and photos because it takes the complexity of navigating the file system of operating systems and attaching files and photos using an email client.

It's 2014 and I have family members who are still unable 1) navigate a file system to save and retrieve  an image  and 2) use a local mail client and/or webmail in windows to and navigate the the file system to attach and image.    These are basic skills that should have been learned by users decades ago but this simplicity and ease of use takes fine grained control away from the user and are left with less than desired photos.  You need to figure out which connector you have:  30 Pin or Lightning and buy the appropriate connection kit.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Plex Home. The end of an era.

I know I'm going to receive a lot of hate mail about this. But I too a screenshot before my comment gets removed on Google+.  Bait and switch requiring a Plex plass subscription is not a good look  Plex. 

Saturday, November 01, 2014

48 Hours With The Microsoft Band

Day 1

I ordered the morning on Oct 30th but there was no anticipated ship date thoughout the day.  After lunch on the east coast I noticed bloggers were posting photos online of lines at Microsoft Stores across the country and I read that they were being sold in stores. So I called the local Microsoft store when I got home from work and they had the small band in stock.  I’ll be there in 30 minutes, will there be enough stock? His answer was yes, c’mon down.

Upon arrival all the small bands were *not* in stock and I tried on the medium band and it was acceptable on the tightest clasp setting.  It was tight enough on wrist but I could look down into the band and see gaps.

I purchased the medium band, downloaded the Microsoft Health App while the transaction and bag packing occurred and rushed back to my car to set the band up.

Setup was fairly simple.  I first plugged the included usb charger into my usb port in my car and to the pogo pins (mag safe-ish) on the underside of the watch and it turned on.  There was typical bluetooth pairing, pins, etc.  45 seconds later it was done.  I paired the band with the app and started customizing and connecting to the connected apps.

I left the mall parking lot and drove home.  The haptic vibration motor is *very* strong.  I actually was a little started with notifications.  Calendar notifications definitely get your attention.  I took in a movie late in the evening and notifications discretely came in and were not obnoxious nor disturbing in a dark theater.  I discretely looked down at my wrist at the notification and either manually pressed the sleep button or just turned my wrist over.

I worked out after the movie and the data captured was fairly accurate.  I was shocked that was was gathering estimate reps completed!.  My ending heart rate was not able to be calculated.  I don’t know if that was because I was sweaty or the band wasn’t tight enough with loss of water weight and/or sweat.

I took the band off to shower.  I watched the news and it was time for to sleep.  I hit the sleep icon and action button and I was in light sleep within 6.5 minutes.  What was disturbing was that I “woke up”  6 times throughout the night and my sleep was only 91% efficient.  But I burn a whopping 487 calories while I sleep.

Day 2

Early work day.  I didn’t miss a meeting because I was promptly alerted by the calendar for a pending meeting.  I didn’t need to look at my phone for notifications.  I could discretely see what was going on with a slight glance of my wrist.  Nothing more to report here.

I completed a quick workout before bed and it was very accurate.  Ending heart rate was captured this time.  However, the data synced to run keeper only contained duration and calories burned.  Major bummer there. Shower then sleep.  95% efficient sleep with only 3 wake ups.

Day 3
I completed sleep tracking took the band off to shower and I forgot it on the night stand.
I finished running errands and put the band on upon returning home and decided to go to Starbucks and test out the Starbucks Card QR Code Functionality and it worked.  I turned the band around with the display facing out and scanned it up to the reader and boom it worked.  Major win.  I can now be wallet-less and now phone-less to get my Starbucks Fix!

With enough caffeine I tackled a 2.5 hours and 2.30 miles in Ikea.  What’s sad and disturbing is the capturing of only 320 steps in an hour.  That accounted for me waiting in line and walking to my car.

Currently I’d give the Microsoft Band a B+ or a 86/100.  It got a lot right and some minor things wrong.  By now if it was a dud I would have taken the thing off and banished it to the junk drawer but I’m still wearing it and hoping for great things from the device.  The time before the Apple Watch comes out it critical for Microsoft.  If they can add some polish to the UI and sync apps.  It could be a great Apple Watch contender.

Device came almost fully charged
48 Hour Battery Life
Strong Haptic Vibration Motor
Hypoallergenic Silicone/Rubber Coating
Great BT LE 4.0 Power Management

Bulk - (I’m wearing the medium band on the tightest clasp setting)
Not Water Proof
Health App
My Zagg Screen Protector that was supposed to be included was missing in my bag
Physical Action Button Required for Certain Activities - Touch UI should accomplish most of this
Wonky UI
No Direct iOS Healthkit Integration
Health iOS App takes a battery hit with the continuous background syncing
UV Detector Didn't Seem to pickup any UV Radiation :-(

Current Connected Apps/iOS HealthKit Integration Status

HealthKit Integration is done by syncing workout duration currently and it might trickle into Healtkit.  I have Runkeeper and MyFitnessPal connectivity setup and not all the activity data is being synced.  I can manually enter the active calories burned but it’s a pain.   You cannot currently use the Microsoft Band as an external heart rate monitor using MyFitnessPal.

My recommendation for Microsoft would just be to continue to use the MyFitnessPal and Runkeeper partnerships but start logging the data directly to Healtkit.  It’s easy to gather the data and let the partners consume what they want but all the valuable fitness metrics are being lost.  The following values can go right into HealthKit and the apps can pickup the data for their logging,dairy etc from the devices as well:

*Active Calories
*Cycling Distance
*Electrodermal Activity
*Heart Rate
*Number of Times Fallen
*Resting Calories
*Sleep Analysis   - A Major Plus for Me
*Walking + Running Distance

I do have a Small Band Coming in the mail sometime next week.  So the fit issues might be resolved come Wednesday.

Supposedly HealthKit Integration is coming but it should have been there on day one.

Some Warnings and Frank Criticism for Microsoft.  Please milk Cortana for all that she’s worth but please do not neuter the Voice Features for iOS and Android.  Simply allow the microphone to be used a handsfree device and let it trigger Siri and Google Now respectively. If you disable this in favor or Cortana notes, etc; people will not buy your device.  Right now there is integration with iOS and Android and that is perfect.  Just sync the data and display the notifications and go! Work with Apple and Google to figure out how to properly integrate with their Health Offerings with the data that you collect and you don’t have to frustrate customers working with third party app makers and their limited APIs.  Figure out how to get the heart rate data sent to MyFitnessPal or RunKeeper