Tag Archives: Technology

iOS 6: Review

Like most iPhone owners, I was ready to install iOS 6 when it was released on Wednesday. I had liked what I had seen at Apple’s WWDC in June and could not wait to try it out. Now that I have been using iOS 6 for a few days, I thought I would post my thoughts.

What’s New?

There are a few new features and apps in iOS 6. In fact, Apple claims that there are over 200 new features in the OS, but you might be hard pressed to find them.

 

One of the more obvious changes is the Maps app. Apple has ditched Google in favor of its own map application. It features vector styling mapping so the load time is fairly quick. The satellite images load very quickly as well. The problems begin, however, when you use Apple’s 3D “Flyover” feature. Some of the images are incomplete or skewed. And Flyover is only available for a few select cities. Siri is now integrated in to Maps and will provide turn-by-turn navigation. There are a few issues here as well. Many addresses are off, and some are off by a few blocks in larger cities. This makes me wonder why Apple did not release a beta version of this maps app. A real public beta, not a developer beta. Apple could have pin-pointed some of these errors long before the release date, but Apple says it is working on the Maps issues and will release an update soon.

Another new app is Passbook. I really like this idea. NFC might be a feature of other phones, but it has not yet been accepted by the majority of the public. Apple has opted instead for Passbook. There are only a few apps using this feature, but there are sure to be more in the coming months. Passbook is a place to store tickets, boarding passes, and gift cards. Let’s use Fandango as an example. You buy your movie ticket on Fandango and the app places your ticket in Passbook. When you enter the theater, you pull up the ticket which is then scanned. A very simple app that is sure to get a lot of use.

There are a number of other important updates. Facebook is now integrated throughout the OS making it easy to share and post to Facebook. Siri has received some nice updates. She now knows more about sports, can launch apps, post of Facebook and Twitter, and can tell you where to go with Maps. Mail has received some minor updates, as has Safari and the camera.

What is Old?

iOS 1 vs. iOS 5

To be honest…all of it. iOS is beginning to feel old. Apple has tried to update the feel of the OS in a few ways. They have updated the look of the App Store, iTunes Store and Music apps. They also changed the way the phone key pad looks, but the rest of the app has not changed. Some apps have a blue menu bar, some retain the old black bar. The OS just feels half-baked. It seems like they wanted to try a new color scheme, but did not finish it. I really like the black and white look of the Music app, but it makes most of the other apps look out dated.

There have been several articles lately about Apple’s skeuomorphic design themes and how there are two camps within Apple. Some believe Apple needs to pick a standard theme, others like how each app is unique and looks like it’s physical counterpart (ex. Notes app looks like a notepad).  Personally, I think it is time that Apple pick a design language and stick with it. They are moving in the right direction with the remodeled stores and Music app.

Overall

There is no doubt that iOS 6 is a solid OS. Everything works very well, and I have not had any issues since upgrading. Customers will flock to iOS 6 and the iPhone 5, but that does not mean Apple needs to stop innovating. If they want to remain the king of phone technology, iOS will need some major new features for iOS 7 – and one of those features needs to include a facelift.

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Tim Cook at D10 – UPDATED

On Tuesday night, All Things Digital’s D10 Conference kicked off with a keynote interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook. Presenters Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher began by asking Cook about his new postion at Apple and how the death of his friend Steve Jobs has affected him and Apple. Cook became visibly emotional when talking about Jobs, and he recalled that was a genius and said that Apple will remain true to its roots and move forward with its product strategies.

After a few softball questions, Mossberg and Swisher (mostly Mossberg) began to hit on some of the tougher subjects. Cook (reluctantly) discussed patent wars, the controversy over manufacturing in China, and the future of AppleTV. Mossberg asked him if tablets should be categorized as PCs and his response was a resounding “no“. Cook did hint at upgrades to Siri as well as a possible partnership with Facebook, despite saying that Apple was going to “double down” on secrecy. All Things Digital as put together a highlight video that you can see HERE. I will post a link to the full video when it is available.

At times, it seemed that Mossberg and Swisher were bullying Cook with topics that he did not want to discuss, something that Jobs would not have allowed. Cook is very soft spoken, but he is a master at dodging questions. Nevertheless, the information that came out of the D10 keynote was very interesting for those in the tech world. Of course, all eyes will be on Apple June 11 when Tim Cook will take to his own stage at the 2012 Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco

UPDATE (June 11): The full video has been posed, you can view it HERE.

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Apple, Foxconn, and Mike Daisey

There have been alot of reports lately about Apple and its supply chain, specifically Foxconn. Nightline was granted access to Foxconn a few months ago, but the Foxconn stories began in 2010 following a series of worker suicides. The story was brought to theater by Mike Daisey in his play The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. His monologue (read the full text) has been widely popular. In it he claims to have visited Foxconn and visited with underaged workers and workers that had been disabled by their work at Foxconn. A few months ago he appeared on the Chicago show “This American Life.” They ran the story and reported his monologue as fact. They did a series of fact checks, but they did not talk with Daisey’s contact in China, known as Cathy. She was his interpreter and he lied to the show about her identity and would not provide her contact information. They were able to find her, however, and she refutes many of his claims. “This American Life” ran a retraction of their story and an interview with the interpreter. They also reinterviewed Daisey, who admitted that some of his monologue was fabricated. The retraction story delves deeper into the conditions of Foxconn, much like Nightline. It is worth the listen.

Daisey’s play has gotten the desired response. It has made many question and investigate Apple’s supply chain. Apple has been more open about their suppliers, but they have published yearly supplier reports since 2005 (read the most recent of these reports HERE). In it they detail the number of violations found (underaged workers, etc.) and they also list suppliers that they had severed ties with because they refuse to comply with Apple’s standards. Every year, they find violations and they have been criticized for not doing more to prevent violations of its own Code of Supplier Ethics. As far as I know, Apple is the only company to do this, and many other companies use Foxconn and the same supply chain as Apple. Apple has been reporting the problems in China for years, on their website for everyone to see. It has just taken us this long to see it for what it really is.

Since the investigation by “This American Life,” Daisey has changed his show so that the facts are better represented. Before being caught by “This American Life,” Daisey appeared on a number of news programs presenting his disturbing findings as fact. He has since admitted to some embellishment. While I believe it was wrong for Daisey to blatantly misrepresent his trip to China, it has called attention to working conditions in China. Conditions are not great, but one thing we have to keep in mind is that China is in the same position the United States at the turn of the century. In 1900, factory conditions in the US were not ideal and it took the Progressive Era for reforms to take place. There has not been a “Progressive Era” in China. Apple, companies and countries can apply pressure to China, but we cannot force reforms. This is side effect of industrialization and it will take time for laws to be put in place to end underage employment, low pay, long hours, and poor conditions. I hope, for the sake of the workers, that this happens sometime in the near future.

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Buying a second camera…

Most of you know that I already own a very capable DSLR, but last week, at the Kevin Harvick Fan Club Gathering, I realized that the large Canon T1i could be a disadvantage.  The task became, what camera to get?  I wanted a camera that has high end features and takes photos like my DSLR, but can fit in my pocket.  Those familiar with photography know that the terms “point-and-shoot” and “awesome image” do not go together.  That is until now.

The Amazing Canon EOS Rebel T1i

Last year, Canon released the S90 which professional photographers hailed as a fantastic point and shoot.  A few months ago, Canon released the S90s predecessor, the S95.  The feature list is impressive – f/2 lens, manual mode, RAW format, 3,8x zoom, Digic 4 processor, HDR system, and many more.  The S95 is Canon’s top compact point and shoot camera and I knew I had to have it!

I decided on Friday that the S95 was the camera I wanted, but the closest one was in Gainesville, Virginia, a suburb of Washington D.C.  I went to Best Buy in Harrisonburg just to see what they had.  What I found was Canon’s SX210 IS.  I was impressed with the camera in the store and decided to make the purchase.  Wait, I wanted a S95, but bought a lower model??  I brought the camera home and put it aside to finish a paper due this week.  Once the battery had charged, I put the camera through its paces and realized I had made a huge mistake.  The camera’s auto focus was extremely slow and loud, the body was pretty bulky, and I still wanted the S95!

The Impressive Canon Powershot S95

I made a few phone calls and remembered a store in Harrisonburg called Glen’s Everything Store.  Dr. Lanier, a fellow photography enthusiast and professor of my HIST 592 course, told me about this store.  Now, this store is mostly a seasonal store and is over decorated for Halloween at the moment, but they are a retailer of Canon cameras.  I called them and they HAD THE S90!!  I returned the SX210 to Best Buy and spent the extra $100 for the S95.

I do not regret making either purchase.  The SX210 IS made me realize I would settle for no less than the S95.  The S95 itself is a great camera and I see myself using it for many years to come.  Its first test may come this weekend should we, some grad students and myself, go to Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington D.C.  I have, however, used the camera around the apartment and outside.  I am impressed with its quality and the manual features.  It also does not hurt that it is a good looking camera as well!!

The Crystal Clear 3 inch display on the S95

So, moral of the story is stick with your instincts, they are never wrong!!  Oh, and buy the Canon S95!!

I promise I will describe my HIST 592, Material Culture, course as soon as I get a chance!  Until then…

-Eric

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