Author Archives: David Gaw

Playing with iPhone’s New HDR Camera

Along with several much-appreciated bug fixes, version 4.1 of Apple’s iOS for iPhone, released this week, brought with it a few new features.  I’ve been playing with one of them: built-in high dynamic range (HDR) photography. 

HDR is, Wikipedia tells us, "a set of techniques that allow a greater …range of luminance between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than standard …photographic methods. This …allows HDR images to more accurately represent the wide range of intensity levels found in real scenes."  In photography, the effect is accomplished by taking multiple exposures of the same scene, then merging them algorithmically.  I’ve done some HDR experimentation previously using my Canon S90, which does the necessary exposure bracketing, but actually getting an HDR photograph required, at minimum, uploading the pictures to the computer, firing up the image editing software, and running an HDR process to merge them.  Depending on the software you were using, it could be more complicated still.

With iOS 4.1, the procedures is somewhat simpler: turn HDR on, and take a picture.  All of the processing is done in-device.

By default, iOS saves both a standard and HDR image of each picture you take, which makes it very easy to do A/B comparisons.  Here, for example, are both versions of a picture I took outside the mall last night.  Notice the greater definition to the lights in the picture on the right.  There is also variation in shading visible in the lamp shade at the top left of the HDR image that is blown out in the standard shot.


Here’s another example, taken at the same location in a different direction.  As before, there’s less bloom around light sources like the Barnes & Noble sign, and much more detail visible through the store windows in the HDR shot.


Keep in mind that these are all handheld shots with a camera phone—at night, an area of particular weakness for the iPhone historically.  Particularly arriving as it does within a free iOS upgrade, I have to say the new HDR feature is pretty fantastic.

Never Forget


E-books During Taxi and Take-off

I’ve heard a key motivation behind the FAA requirenent that people “turn off and stow all personal electronics” at the start and end of a commercial flight is that airlines don’t want passengers stumbling over laptops and the like while trying to deplane during an emergency. But I wonder: is there any reason to think that something as compact as a Kindle or an iPad is any more distracting or cumbersome than a newspaper or paperback?

As a frequent traveller, I can certainly appreciate an abundance of caution and a “better safe than sorry” attitude. But as a taxpaying iPad owner, I think I can reasonably expect that some of the ridicolous waste I fund with my tax dollars be diverted instead to something truly worthwhile–like funding a study confirming my suspicion that e-books can safely be put on equal footing with the dead tree variety during taxi and take-off.

Apple iPad Case Micro-Review

…based on four months of use.  Aesthetically: I like it a lot.  Looks good.  Nice texture to the surface; it’s nice and grippy.  Easy to slip the iPad into and out of.  Clever folding design that lets you angle the iPad for typing or viewing.

Cons: it could provide better protection; I am not kind to my gear, and while the case cover is fairly stiff, the soft back of the case provides only minimal protection.  The back of my iPad has gotten significantly dented and dimpled during its time in my briefcase.

Bottom line: a nice, reasonably economical case, as long as you’re not abusive to your electronics.  If you tend to bang things around, you might want to look into something that offers more protection.

Phone Coolness vs. Network Quality

Rip wonders:

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Why are the world’s coolest phones (iPhone, EVO, etc) only available on the world’s crappiest networks (AT&T, Sprint). Quality, please!?!Sun Sep 05 18:45:15 via web

It’s been a decade since I was on Sprint, and so haven’t kept tabs on their network quality.  In AT&T’s case, however, I’m betting part of the problem is that having a cool enough phone degrades your network quality. 

According to this NY Times article from late last year, AT&T’s network capacity is actually well ahead of its competition. But the iPhone was the first phone to make mobile Internet worthwhile, and its success reportedly drove a 4,000 percent increase in data volume on AT&T.  As much as I liked it personally, I think their original all-you-can-use data plans created a major free-rider problem that saturated whatever capacity they threw at it.  And their worst network issues being in San Francisco and New York, where all the tech journalists live, certainly didn’t help their press.  Here in Houston, I’m pretty happy with my service quality, and it’s noticeably better on the iPhone 4 than it was on the iPhone 3G I used previously.

It will be interesting to see if their recent move to metered pricing will improve things.  I would argue it would have been better still had they adopted an all-David-Gaw-can-use-and-screw-everyone-else model, but I can see how they’d have difficulty marketing that to anyone but me.

I, Glutton for Punishment

Browsing through iTunes University courses… ah, what’s this one?  “Geo 10 – World Religions, Peoples, and States"—from UC Berkeley.

I'm going to listen to this if for no other reason than to see how far I can get before my head explodes.

Apparently It’s Not Just 18% of Americans Who Are Confused About President Obama’s faith

Pakistani Minister Wants Obama to Be ‘Leader of All Muslims’:

Minister of State for Industries Ayatullah Durrani, who belongs to the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, said the upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr festival, expected to be observed on September 11, would be a "golden opportunity" for Obama to offer Eid prayers and declare himself the leader of all Muslims.

I’m going to go out on a limb and predict the president will pass on the opportunity.

"In this way, all the problems of the Muslim world would be solved," Durrani told The Nation newspaper.

Apparently Minister Durrani hasn’t been watching the president’s attempts at solving the problems of the country he already leads.

Exterior STS-124 Launch Video, With Sound

Video of space shuttle flight STS-124, launched late May 31, 2008, via @adamsbaldwin.  It goes from being mildly interesting to being amazing right around 1:51.  Embed after the jump.

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Jesse Jackson Participates in Wealth Redistribution

As is often true, his participation was involuntary:

Jesse Jackson’s car stolen in Detroit

Several Detroit media outlets reported thieves stole Jackson’s ride — a 2009 Cadillac Escalade — from a parking lot near the city’s Doubletree Hotel.

The SUV was later recovered, but it was found without its rims and one of its windows had been broken, according to Detroit’s WXYZ-TV.

Jackson was in Detroit for a march and rally called “Rebuild America: Jobs, Justice and Peace.”

It appears we may be making progress with the “justice” part.

Missing the Point

Via Jim Treacher, what they’re saying about the 8/28 rally.  Read to the end.